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There was a time when platformers were so simple and plain that the characters looked like they had moustaches, but those ended up just being their mouths. You had to run left and right to eight bit music, while phallic green shapes drifted through the background, and clouds smiled down upon you, making you feel less and less comfortable as you made your way through the levels. If you were lucky, you found a secret by jumping really high, or crouching really low, but that was just about it.
Thank goodness that was thirty-odd years ago now. Recently, even indie platformers are made exquisitely, utilizing beautiful graphics, tragic and wonderful plots, and more than just an instrument or two for their soundtracks.
Case in point: Ori and the Blind Forest. Obscure? Yes. Totally worth your time? Absolutely. Here are seven points about Ori and the Blind Forest that prove it.
#7 - The setting
We’re lucky not to be blind in this blind forest, because it’s a lot of beauty to take in. There’s plenty of black and blue to see, what with the awful things that happened to the forest, murdering so many of the good, adorable inhabitants. But there’s also the soft white glow of the dragonfly-like creatures, the sun fighting its way through the foliage above you and that beautiful tree, all but calling to you to come and embrace its light. On the sunny days, the forest is a lovely place, too, teeming with light and trees, beautiful backgrounds and foregrounds, and merry little creatures. Everything in this game puts out a soft, peaceful glow, no matter how sad the plot gets.
By never letting the darkness of the forest be all-encompassing, and always leaving a soft glow somewhere in the world, Ori and the Blind Forest presents a beautiful little paradise. Even with all the sad things happening to all the sweet creatures of the forest. Rest in peace, Naru, you wonderfully tubby guy!
#6 - The details
It’s the little things that count. Especially when you’ve got yourself such a simple little platformer. Gone are the days when all you would get in your backgrounds are a light blue sky and giant green … um … mountains? Come to think of it, I have no idea what those are supposed to be.
At any rate, a million little things add a lot of flavour to Ori and the Blind Forest. The backgrounds are multi-layered, and the foregrounds have subtle little additions that enhance your playing experience without you even realising, like soft glowing lights, or marks etched into the wood of the bridges you cross. And maybe you’ll even find a triforce etched into a tree.
The music also adds to your experience, weighing in perfectly during every frightening, or heart breaking, or exciting moment. When all the little parts of Ori and the Blind Forest are combined, you’re left with a very enjoyable time.
#5 - The cinematics
Some games have movie-like cinematics, pulling you out of the world you were just a part of, and making you a spectator. These are usually beautiful, using the best graphics available to make a truly realistic feel, and they are definitely cool and fun.
Ori and the Blind Forest does it better, though. The cinematics feel as though they are part of the game; the camera follows the characters in the same fashion as when you’re in control. You’re never quite sure when it’s time to move the joystick and go on your adventure. It adds a layer of realism that sucks you even deeper into the world of the Blind Forest.
#4 - The creature design
If I could live in this game’s world, I would. Especially if it meant I could have a little pet dragon thingy like Ori, or a big buddy like Naru. Each animal in this world is very unique. They’re all like something you’ve never seen before, but they’re also familiar enough that your brain can still comprehend what you’re looking at. Naru has a cute little mask, a dark body and subtle markings, like a cross between the moonkin form of a druid in World of Warcraft and No Face from Spirited Away. Ori is some sort of fairy/dragon thing, adorable in his actions, his movements, the sounds he makes and his overall design. The enemies are pretty scary: hard-bodied, lacking any soft glow like their protagonist counterparts, and dark. They’re also really cool, though: reminiscent of the original Pokemon. You know, back when they were designed after awesome things like rocks and mice, instead of ice cream cones…
#3 - The homage to other games
Ori and the Blind Forest features lots of tiny nods to older games. For instance, the tree that stands in the middle of the forest, representing life and bliss and such. This reminds me of a certain tree that died so I could vanquish evil back in 1998. There’s also a Super Meat Boy Easter egg just waiting to hear you fanboy/girl squee over itself. Plus there’s a green pipe floating in one of the lakes – not to mention the overall gameplay that is a big “thanks for existing” to games like Super Mario Bros and Metroid. There are many more – players have been finding them for a while, and the game is still pretty newly released. Play through it and see how many you can find!
#2 - The skill tree
I’m not used to platformers and side scrollers with skill trees. It’s not that it’s completely unheard of: many recent games have done it, Child of Light being my favourite example. It’s still rare enough that I get excited when I see it, though. The skill tree in this game is rather simplistic, but enjoyably so. When most of a game has to do with puzzle-solving to get from point A to point B, your best bet for a skill tree is to add little things to make the game more bearable as it progresses in difficulty difficult. Add in a really cool attack, an extra big jump, and small things like these drive a player to keep playing, ignoring the odds that are stacked against them, the difficulty of the puzzles, and the like. Ori and the Blind Forest does just this: giving the player a reason to keep hop-skip-and-jumping their way to that distant place that will hopefully save our adorable protagonist and his tubby friend.
The #1 Ori and The Blind Forest - Platforming originality
Platforming can be boring and lacking, causing a player to grind their teeth as they try for the eightieth time to get from one ledge to another, just to do so and find out the next level is the exact same thing. It can be monotonous, more trouble than it’s worth, and all for naught when it turns out that our princess has been in another castle the entire time.
It can also be a revolution in puzzle-solving, asking a player to figure out new and interesting ways to utilize the controls they’re given, the world they’re a part of, and the character they have to be. There can be hours upon hours of unique levels, each more challenging and ingenious than the last. Ori and the Blind Forest definitely leans towards the latter situation.