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  • Writer's pictureAllan Jenks

Game Review #481: Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Julia Oh

Developer: Moon Studios Publisher: Microsoft Studios Category: Platformer, Metroidvania Release Date: 9.27.2019 Price: $19.99


Buy Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

I’m in a Glass Case of Emotion

I’m a crybaby. Sometimes all it takes is an empathetic villain (Hunter x Hunter); a touching opening sequence (UP); breathtaking scenery and equally moving music (Lord of the Rings). Sometimes all it takes is some difficult platforming. Unfortunately for the bags under my eyes, Ori and the Blind Forest has all of that and more.

Not Your Ordinary Bildungsroman

In this 2-D Metroidvania platformer you take on the role of the titular character, Ori, an endearing lemur-like spirit born from the Spirit Tree who serves as the guardian of the Forest of Nibel. After being fatefully separated from the Spirit Tree during a storm, Ori finds a home in Naru, the most delightful, huggable gorilla mom we never thought we needed. Life is Edenic for the pair until catastrophic events lead our little protagonist on an adventure to save the Forest of Nibel and the world as they know it.

Ori and the Blind Forest has all the trappings of a hero’s journey: a do-no-wrong protagonist destined for greatness, a guiding spirit, a seemingly irredeemable villain, and it even has a sage talking tree (hello, Great Deku Tree; hello, Grandmother Willow). It explores all the familiar themes of love, redemption, good versus evil, and a hero’s coming of age. However, despite its familiarity, Ori and the Blind Forest sets itself apart in every way from its satisfying gameplay to its poignant narrative.

Her Palms are Sweaty, Knees Weak, Mom’s Spaghetti

I’m not going to lie, when I first saw the trailer for Ori and the Blind Forest way back during E3 2014, I thought it would be an easy-going platformer.

Oh my God, I’ve never been more wrong.

Ori requires precise platforming, puzzle solving, and backtracking. There will be frustrating moments where you’ll want to throw your Pro Controller after falling off a teeter-tottering platform for the umpteenth time (based off of a true story). There will be palm-sweating moments where you race against the elements for Ori’s life. However, despite its undeniable difficulty, Ori and the Blind Forest is actually quite approachable.

Combat is pretty straight forward and primarily done through Sein, a fairy-like creature a la Navi who contains the power of the Spirit Tree and serves as both Ori’s guide and weapon. Although at the beginning you might find it too easy smashing one button to blast through enemies with Sein’s Spirit Flame, rest assured you’ll have to use your finesse as you further explore Nibel and expand Ori’s arsenal. The game also never pits you against any bosses or the main antagonist—a vengeful, hulking owl named Kuro. Instead, typical boss battles are replaced by thrilling escape sequences that put your platforming skills and dexterity to the test.

The puzzle solving in Oriis pretty involved. I got stumped a couple of times, but truly there is no puzzle that a little creative thinking can’t solve. You’ll need to think outside the box at times, not only experimenting with your acquired abilities, but with the environment and enemy movements as well.

Ori’s save system is unique and one I personally appreciated. Although a few static save points are scattered throughout in the form of Spirit Wells, you’ll want to make use of “Soul Links” to create check points. This mechanic requires the use of “Energy Cells,” which don’t passively refill and are instead replenished at Spirit Wells or by smashing certain crystals and plants. This requires players to act conservatively as Ori’s map is quite large and filled with difficult passages—the last thing you want is to be stuck in a tight spot with not enough Energy Cells to save!

The game also makes use of a linear ability tree with three branches that focus on combat, movement, and efficiency. Upgrades are purchasable using Ability Points, which are gained via pickups or by defeating enemies, while other important skills are found throughout the game in the form of Ancestral Trees. As you progress, gain more abilities, and find more Energy Cells, Ori will be able to access previously unnavigable areas, perform stronger attacks, and save more often for when the going gets tough.

The menu gives you a small selection of bonus content including cutscenes (have your tissues ready), behind the scenes content, promotional videos, and concept art. You also have access to varying difficulty levels—including One Life, which only allows you one life to complete the entire game—leaderboards, and an achievement system that’s darn hard to complete.

A Feast for Your Eyes and Ears

The music and artwork of Ori and the Blind Forest is sumptuous. The swelling and ethereal instrumental themes perfectly capture Ori’s world, one filled with danger and hope. There are several areas to explore in the expansive world of Ori, and each environment you enter stands strong and memorable on its own. Whether you’re in the tenebrous Black Root Burrows or the verdant Thornfelt Swamp, your eyes will be nothing short of delighted.

As you dash, jump, and glide, you’ll begin to appreciate Ori’s even more beautiful subtleties: motion blur, hidden cave drawings hinting at a deeper lore, and backgrounds that seem like they’re straight out of a Golden Age Disney movie. The satisfying sound design makes every movement Ori takes—whether they’re climbing rocks, Bashing, or Charging—sound absolutely musical.

In Summary

It was a true joy to play Ori and the Blind Forest, and I consider it an absolute must-have. Don’t let the bright, fairytale-like visuals fool you—this platformer can be difficult. However, Ori manages to strike the perfect balance between frustrating and achievable and is altogether satisfying. The story and its characters will make your heart swell, break, and swell again. The gameplay is intuitive and rewarding while the music and art makes Ori one of the most beautiful games available on the Switch. You’ll find few things more satisfying than watching Ori parkour across Nibel, beautifully buoyant in their movements and satisfyingly strong in combat. Although the main story took only a little over 10 hours for me to complete, it didn’t leave me wanting. The only thing I could think as I sniveled through the credits was: “Microsoft, Moon Studios—please bring the sequel to the Switch!”

Score: 10/10

Buy Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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