I find a proverbial ass load of nostalgia in 2D platformers. And I absolutely love the overwhelming joys with feeling nostalgic. There is just something about the simplistic nature of side-scrolling gaming that takes me back to a day before thumbsticks. Back to a time when games didn’t need the third dimension to be entertaining. In fact, those games were generally much more difficult. That might seem odd to young gamers today, but I dare you to pick up an old-school NES game like Mega Man or Metroid. I bet you don’t last. Ori and the Blind Forest is one of those games that transports me to my youth. A 2D side-scrolling platformer with some light puzzle-solving that enriches the overall experience. Let’s find out how the game stacked up.
Blue Ball Score: 21 out of 25 balls
Ori and the Blind Forest has all the right pieces. Exploration, combat, ability trees, platforming, puzzle-solving, and a great story to boot. Reflexes will be key as you are jumping and climbing to traverse the various landscapes. The 2D worlds are so beautiful that you will be yearning to explore as much as possible. Exploration is a large part of Ori and there is a vast world to discover. As you travel, your world map will begin to fill in with each area you enter. This effect is sometimes referred to as the “fog” effect, similar to how the map works in games such as Starcraft. You will find areas/items that are unattainable until you discover new abilities throughout your journey.
The controls are very simple and easy to grasp. The core controls revolve around running, jumping, and attacking. New abilities translate to additional controls, but nothing too complex. Wall climbing, charge attacks, dropping soul links, and other abilities do not offer any major challenges in terms of controls. Even during intense combat moments where timing and reflexes are all too important, the controls always seem extremely fluid and second-nature. This is exactly how gaming should be. The controller should be a direct extension of your brain and should not be a fumbling mess causing your fingers to tangle up like yarn. Ori implements this very well, and the additional core elements complement the overall experience nicely.
The ability to create your own save points via “soul links” is one of my favorite features. You can create these at practically any point in the game, given that you have enough energy cells. It saves a lot of frustration when used effectively. This is a rare feature in today’s games but serves a great purpose. Overall, gameplay is about as good as it gets, and earns a well deserved 4.5 balls.
In the game, you play as Ori who is an orphaned spirit of the forest. Ori looks like a mexican hairless, except that it is made of light… or maybe it’s energy… or maybe the souls of dead squirrels. Who really knows? In the awe-inspiring opening sequence, you see Ori and his caretaker Naru. Everything is cool in the forest in the beginning. However, life in the forest quickly begins to wilt away and food sources become scarce. Naru becomes an unfortunate victim to the decaying forest as she sadly dies, leaving Ori once again orphaned to fend for itself. In an unthinkable turn of events, Ori also dies. The Spirit Tree of the forest revives Ori and sets it on a journey to save the forest. No more spoilers here, but I will point out that the story adds a few twists and turns for dramatic effect.
Along the way, you learn some history of the forest and meet a few friends. One of these is Sein, which acts as both a guide and a weapon. You will also find skill trees which teach you new abilities. The new abilities grant you access to previously out-of-reach areas which requires backtracking and going back to areas that you explored in the past. New areas bring a variety of enemies and environments to keep the game refreshing. You will also find various save points and fast-travel locations to assist in the back-and-forth required in the game. As enemies get tougher, you’ll want to keep upgrading Ori and its abilities through the different upgrade trees. So keep an eye on those ability points!
I don’t say this often, but I honestly don’t see how the campaign could be any better. Ori features an epic story on a grand scale that tries to pull at your heartstrings and reach you at an emotional level. These are the types of stories that build lasting memories in gaming, and Ori fits the bill. The campaign gets a perfect 5 balls.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again because I cannot say it enough. The opening sequence is amazing. Action sequences and cutscenes throughout the game are well polished. It keeps the player enthralled in the story. Whimsical visuals serve your sense with a feast of eye-candy. Character animations are crisp and clean, and the character designs spur the player’s imagination. Everything from the forest to the heroes to the enemies seems like it belongs in the world perfectly.
I quickly fell in love with the art in Ori. Graphics earn a perfect 5 balls.
A mildly flat experience left my ears feeling blue balled… and not the good kind that we hand out here at BlueBall Reviews. Sound earns an average 3.5 balls.
In conclusion, Ori and the Blind Forest is a fantastic game. It is a refreshing deviation from the norm. I would recommend it to any gamer. If you think you’re not interested, give it a chance and you might be surprised. If nothing else, just promise me that you’ll watch the opening sequence. Ori and the Blind Forest earns a total score of 21 balls.