Ori and the Blind Forest is the Super Metroid game we’ve all longed for. From its labyrinthian level designs and dynamic upgrades to the punishing difficulty and poetic storytelling, Ori is a masterful modern day homage to Nintendo’s timeless classic. With staffers located all across the world, newly found developer Moon Studios has worked tirelessly for over four years, crafting what may be one of Xbox One’s finest titles since launch.
Microsoft made a wise decision in acquiring the game only a year after development started, and hopefully they’ll give it the proper marketing it deserves. Don’t mistake Ori’s cutesy graphics for a casual experience. Ori is a hardcore platformer that doesn’t mess around. If you’re up for a challenge, and appreciate good storytelling, Ori and the Blind Forest is the most impressive indie game in years.
When it comes to engaging storytelling, Moon Studios wastes no time in making you feel invested in their characters. The intro is reminiscent of the first ten minutes of Pixar’s UP; A few moments of joy quickly turn to heartbreak. Who needs dialogue when expert animation and a brilliant soundtrack can communicate tragedy so effectively. Players take control of Ori, a magical tree creature that’s adopted by a giant, bear-like animal who raises Ori as her own child. Sadly, their happiness doesn't last long. An evil being, Kuro, takes Ori’s mother by starving her to death, and Ori has to flee into the vast forest in hopes of finding answers.
"Moon Studios has worked tirelessly for over four years, crafting what may be one of Xbox One’s finest titles since launch."
Ori and the Blind Forest is a dark fairy tale that, despite its picture book aesthetics, plays more like a survival horror platformer. The first half hour is rather deceiving. The game introduces its mechanics with basic jump and attack commands, and it’s hard to imagine it evolving into anything more complex. However, it doesn’t take long before the game reveals its true nature. An hour in, and Ori turns into a nerve-racking adventure. The platforming transforms from casual hopping around to zigzagging across the screen for your life. Needless to say, Ori walks a fine line between utter frustration and euphoric satisfaction. Like Dark Souls, overcoming Ori’s steep difficulty is devilishly rewarding. One moment you’re cursing at the screen after repeatedly dying in the same spot, the next you’re embracing the sense of empowerment after finally overcoming the game’s masochistic obstacles.
In true Metroid fashion, levels branch out in every direction, and each unlocked ability allows gamers to reach previously inaccessible sections. Ori and the Blind Forest is massive. The world constantly unfolds into a gargantuan landscape of terror. Every second of tranquility is followed by a series of devastating platforming challenges and ruthless enemies. Chaining abilities while dodging projectiles and clinging to your last parcel of health is no easy task. It’s a good thing then that Ori controls with such smoothness and fluidity. No matter how hard the levels become, replaying sections is never a chore. This is game design at its finest.
"It takes inspiration from numerous classics, and makes improvements in every imaginable area. Ori is a modern classic."
From its opening menu, Ori and the Blind Forest stuns with its presentation. The background paintings deserve an exclusive art book, and the superb music has “soundtrack of the year” written all over it. Screenshots can’t faithfully convey Moon Studios’ beautiful art direction. Ori has to be seen in motion. Environments constantly shift in tone, from snow covered mountains to underwater caves. No area is the same, making the constant backtracking pure joy.
Going into any further details would spoil Ori’s many surprises. It’s an absolute must buy. There are no words to truly describe how much I enjoyed my time with Ori and the Blind Forest. It takes inspiration from numerous classics, and makes improvements in every imaginable area. Ori is a modern classic. It’s the Super Metroid of the new generation. It’s a masterpiece, and unquestionably Microsoft’s best game in years.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Xbox One