It’s been about 2 weeks now since Ori and the Blind forest hit stores and digital shelves. The reviews have been extremely positive, garnering it a 89 on Metacritic. But what exactly is it about this game that has charmed reviewers, twitch streamers and video game lovers?
Ori and the Blind Forest is a game that is greater than the sum of its parts. It is all the little nods to games gone by, references to famous animes and animation styles, musical prowess and polish that have come together to create a grueling platformer that makes you smile even when you have died for the 30th time.
Before even getting your hands on a controller, Ori and the Blind forest presents itself as able to stand among some of the greats animated stories of all time. The trailer, which was presented at E3 2014, displays an art style that resembles Japanese Anime, notably the style of Hayao Mayazaki (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service). It features themes favoured by Mayazaki and Disney Animation Studios: nature, the elements, a coming of age story… All these things that have drawn us into famous animated worlds have set the stage for Ori and the Blind Forest to be just as encapsulating.
Moon Studio also drew inspiration from another Japanese classic: The Legend of Zelda. The elemental temple system, the Spirit Tree, Sien your trusty light spark guide and the owl nemesis can be directly paired up with the Zeldian (lol made an new word there) tropes of dungeons, the Deku tree, Navi and the owl guide. The concept of death and rebirth is also strong in the Legend of Zelda with its multiple alternate universes, which Ori himself experiences after the death of his friend Naru and his own resurrection to save the world. As Link is the reincarnation of the triforce of courage to save the world, Ori is also the key to bringing life back to the Spirit Tree.
Ori and the Blind Forest is a traditional platforming game. After recently playing Rayman: Legends and Child of Light, it is easy to see how Moon Studios was inspired by the Ubi-Art engine that powers those games. The gameplay tutorials are short, assuming that you already understand the tropes and mechanics of the genre. Ori and the Blind Forest delicately balances level progression and difficulty. Even when you die 30+ times in one area, you are driven to persevere and repeat until you accomplish your goal and move forward in the game.
The game’s soundtrack is ethereal and melodic and grows in intensity at just the right moments. The only character with a voice is the Spirit Tree who speaks a language that does not exist on earth. Those familiar with the Peanuts cartoons where Charlie Brown’s teacher uses a language that only the children understand, will smile at this reference. The subtle use of type to tell the story of Ori and the Spirit Tree is graceful and not overbearing.
Ori and the Blind Forest isn’t about new video game concepts or mechanics; it is a title that has reflected thoroughly on what has come before it. Moon Studio drew from these influences, and presented a final product that is better than each individual idea. For those who love the individual references mentioned above, or those you just love a good game, Ori and the Blind Forest will not disappoint.