Late one Tuesday evening I formatted my PC in preparation of new components. Before doing so I trawled through my Steam games looking at what I might keep during the move and making a list of games entitled “To Install” once the installation had completed. With 50 or so games installed I had to be selective; I hate having too much at one time since I get choice paralysis so I whittled it down to 20. Ori and the Blind Forest was one of the ones I kept, having sunk a few hours into it already - and enjoying it - I decided to plug my control in and finish it.
And finish it I did, now I’m left wondering why I took so long. Ori and the Blind Forest could well be the best game I’ve played year; it’s agonisingly beautiful, occasionally fiendishly difficult and moves effortlessly between tranquil and exhilerating.
Ori and the Blind Forest is a 2D, painterly platformer come Metroidvania. As you progress you’ll pick up skills and abilities that allow you to conquer terrain and enemies and backtrack through previous areas to collect some of the various collectables that the game offers. You can level up your health, your spirit (which allows you to unleash powerful attacks) and collect points that you can spend on upgrading various abilities in one of three groups; damage, traversal and exploration.
The game’s combat is simple, relying only on quick button presses to unleash bolts of power or, if you hold the button, a devastating explosion which is used both in combat and to destroy environmental blocks. I get the impression Moon knew that the combat was Ori’s biggest weakness, or maybe they didn’t want the combat to be the focus lest they risk it being a crutch, and decided on a simple system. This means that the game’s boss encounters are something a little bit different, and something a little bit special.
Ori requires you to collect a few gems from around its beautiful world to restore the forest to its former beauty. Each of the sectors acts like a Zelda dungeon; they’re separate to the over world and you’ll pick up a skill or ability in each which you’ll use to complete it. When I was playing I restored the first part of the forest; a gorgeous tree that had dried up and taken the water of the world along with it. Handing back the gem brought the water back, but Ori doesn’t let you rest on your laurels. As water flooded into the tree you’re tasked with running. It’s similar in style to Super Meat Boy’s “Boss” encounters - and this was the moment I knew I was playing something special.
I fled. Water poured in from every angle as I dashed, climbed and scrambled desperately to keep my head above the rising tides. I had faced invaders in Bloodborne, I had stormed the Vault of Glass in Destiny and I had sped the roads of India in Driveclub but this, this simple platformer, was giving me the most exhilarating gaming experience I had had so far this year.
I burst from the top of the tree and saw the land; beautiful and verdant. The juxtaposition between the high octane escape mere moments before and this peaceful, serene moment just solidified what I already knew. Ori and the Blind Forest comes recommended with no caveats. It is simply wonderful.