Ori and the Blind Forest, (hereby referred to as just Ori) is how they say, a “Metroidvania.” You have a nice map, and you fill in the map, collecting treasures, items, power ups, and abilities along the way. Usually, using your new abilities in old areas to get new stuff you couldn’t get to before. You play as a little forest sprite, monkey/fox combo named Ori, and you have a spirit companion called Sein. You jump and shoot all over the world, attempting to restore the world to what it once was.
Ori has a lot going for it; beautiful artwork and visuals, a gorgeous soundtrack, a pretty engaging plot for a game with so few words actually delivered, characters that for whatever reason melt your icy cold heart as you learn more about them, tight controls, engaging mechanics.
So what’s wrong with Ori? Realistically, Ori is just too damn hard. Well, hard isn’t the right word.
Escapes = Bad time for Ryan
In Ori, you are collecting three pieces of the world in order to repair it after a major cataclysm that killed your best friend and caretaker, Naru. Super. Sad.
You go to different parts of the world, and once you find a key, you go into some kind of temple like structure to restore part of the world. Gameplay-wise, what ends up happening is a lot of platforming, resulting in an escape scene.
The escapes in Ori were the biggest source of frustration during my play through. Escapes in Ori were ridiculously challenging, requiring such precise timing and platforming ability on the part of the player. You must know exactly what move you need to make before you have to make it, never allowing you enough time to actually see and react to the mechanic you need to get through. You will die over, and over, repeatedly, forever. I ended up looking a solution up to the last three escape sequences in order to get through them. There are only four, so, that’s good?
But everything else feels so GOOD
Ori has some great upgrades and abilities that feel incredibly satisfying to use. The game plays great in a lot of ways. Jumping is tight. Sein acts as an independent floating laser shooting orb that you can shoot while Ori is jumping, and it auto targets enemies; feels good. You get an ability called Bash which allows Ori to stop time on an enemy/projectile and use this attack to throw his target away in the opposite direction of his jump while getting a huge boost. The game uses this mechanic in a lot of just fun ways. Shoot little rhinos at a door to open it, chain bash on a bunch of projectile spitting enemies to climb a chasm. Getting Bash was a little bit of a turning point for me. I thought the game was fine up until then, but Bash really made it fun. Exploring the map was incredibly engaging, and Ori does a lot with puzzle platforming that I enjoyed tremendously.
The soundtrack is just spectacular. Did I mention that already? I bought it I liked it so much. I haven’t done that since Bastion.
Ori makes you feel. There are extra spoilers here.
Ori tackles a lot of the issues surrounding death and loss. You see Naru, Ori’s caretaker, pass very early on in the game and watch as Ori deals with this fact, struggling to find her purpose. There is a creature you meet who has lost his entire species, and ends up finding friendship in Ori. The main antagonist of the game, Kuro, a giant Owl, loses her owl chicks to the very thing that spawned Ori into existence, so she spends the whole game trying to kill Ori before she revives the Spirit Tree that took her family. As you watch these events unfold, you feel for all of these characters. Ori does a phenomenal job of crafting this story surrounding death, and how it affects each of the characters in the game.
There is so much I like about Ori. The whole time playing through the game, there were many moments where I really thought I was playing a great game that felt incredible to just play. But as I carried on, I ended up resenting the escape sequences so much because of how frustratingly difficult they were. Ultimately, despite how the story always did a decent job of building up to why there needed to be an escape scene at those times, it was anticlimactic to end up dying fifty or more times on a single escape. I spent a lot of time in Ori dying. Final count was over 750, where the last 100 came from the last escape sequence alone. I got let down by every escape scene, and as these are the major, culminating story sequences in the game, looking back I can’t help feel a little disappointed by it.
It’s a shame, really.