Platforms: Xbox One, PC
We Played On: Xbox One
There’s a rule among most video game developers: If the game doesn’t pique your interest in the first 10 minutes then you’re not likely to keep playing it. Ori and the Blind Forest doesn’t break this rule. In fact, the first 10 minutes of the game are so fantastic, I can’t imagine anyone would stop playing. Luckily, the rest of the game delivers on the promise of the beginning and makes for a fantastic experience on par with some of the old Legend of Zelda games. And at $19.99, Ori and Blind Forest costs a third of what bigger traditional retail games cost.
Ori begins life as a leaf that is blown off the large spirit tree during a massive storm. When he finally settles he takes the form of a small spirit. An ape-like creature named Naru sees him fall to Earth and adopts him as her own child. Naru and Ori are a happy family until a cataclysmic event “blinds” the forest, drying up the trees that produced the fruit the two eat. Without the fruit, Naru weakens. Ori travels out into the forest to find the last pieces of fruit and returns to find that Naru has died. Without her, he’s forced to traverse the forest on his own. Ori is weak and helpless until he meets up with Sein, another spirit who helps him on his journey to restore light to the forest.
Ori and the Blind Forest is played in 2D, meaning you move the character left and right rather than through 3D space. Once Ori meets up with Sein, he gains the ability to launch beams of energy at enemies. The gameplay then involves dispatching enemies and traversing a variety of environments by jumping and avoiding obstacles.
Throughout the game, Ori will find small spirit trees that give him special abilities. More abilities can be unlocked by collecting orbs that enemies drop when killed. Collecting enough of these orbs results in a skill point. Earning a skill point opens up the ability tree with three paths of options, where players can spend their points however they choose. For example, one skill makes the orbs come to Ori from a greater distance, while another might give him more health. This makes the game feel slightly like a role-playing game, but the majority of the gameplay is still platforming.
Though its beautiful art style and cute characters may make it seem like Ori and the Blind Forest is accessible to anyone, the game increases in difficulty pretty quickly. Many of the obstacles Ori comes up against require precise timing and mastery of his skills. I found myself needing to try some gameplay sequences many times before finally getting past them. Another element that may be frustrating to new players is that game does not autosave. That means players must consciously choose to stop and save or else lose a lot of progress.
The ESRB Rating
The ESRB rates Ori and the Blind Forest as E with a content descriptor of Mild Fantasy Violence. Ori uses energy beams to dispatch a variety of fantastical creatures, but the art is stylized and no blood of any type is shown.
A Lot of Heart
The connection I felt to Ori and Naru was much more pronounced than in many games. Platformers typically include cookie-cutter characters. Ori and the Blind Forest is different. The beginning scenes really made me smile. I immediately related to Naru as she cuddled Ori or playfully tossed him into the air. Seeing them together as mother and child brought my own experience of being a mom to the forefront. It’s perhaps for this reason that Naru’s death felt heartbreaking to me. Even though Naru is around only during the first minutes of the game, I formed an emotional connection to her that made me want to see her adopted child succeed in his quest.
Ori and the Blind Forest is a game that packs a big emotional punch. Because some mastery of platforming skills is required, it may be difficult for new gamers to play. But the game is so beautiful that watching it is enjoyable as well. Its vast world and hours of gameplay make it a great value at a relatively low price. I highly recommend it to young and old players alike.