Remember back when a good puzzle could transcend fiction? Think way back. Moon Studios’ Ori and the Blind Forest is a trip to an era that birthed gaming masterpieces that would forever set a high bar for an exploration rich, difficult, secret-filled puzzle jumpers. Ori begins at a gentle pace to establish the tone, setting and controls, but once the plot is set in motion it is clear the tasks at hand are far from easy. Beneath the disguise of the adorable heroine and stunning locations is the heart of a true challenge.
Along with clever implementation of classic abilities like double jump, wall jump and air stomp are some innovative new tricks that will put your skills to the test. At times daunting or even heart pounding, the difficulty ramps up quickly and makes no apologies for demanding exact timing and deep respect for character controls. It balances well a sense of wonder and exploration with a vast, detailed map stuffed with secrets and shiny things you cannot-yet-get-to, and is well populated with a colorful cast of menacing critters. To top it off, the musical score is outstanding – ranging from deeply emotional to energetic and dramatic orchestra.
Ori includes more than a few hat tips to venerated predecessors in the “metroidvania” genre, and plays as well as we remembered these games to be. Yet at the same time it is something quite new, fresh and thought provoking. It is also very, very hard. A glance at some of the toughest achievements in the game are some of the most insane I’ve seen. The top include a speed run achievement, an achievement for completing it without leveling up any of your abilities, and the highly improbable completion in a single life. Good luck with the last one – that’s some serious bragging rights, given how frequently you are likely to die (hint: repeatedly) before figuring out some of the more cruel traps and puzzles.
Ori is a love letter to the games we grew up with. I played through the first quarter of the game in one sitting over the course of hours – not only had I lost track of the time, I had been transported back to a part of my gaming youth. I’m thankful Moon Studios took the extra time they needed to put the finishing touches on this game – the delay from last year was well worth the wait.