Where do I even begin with a game like Ori and the Blind Forest?
To describe it as a Metroidvania style platform game is accurate, but also clinical and cold. That kind of classification leaves out the real heart of the game’s essence entirely. Ori is really a masterful game that alternates the player between fluid movement and frustrating tests. One moment, you’re capably gliding from screen to screen, zapping enemies and scaling the heights. The next, you’ve died fifty times trying to make it through a speedy jump challenge.
Time to Define
The Definitive Edition of Ori comes to Nintendo Switch after years of being available on other platforms. You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s dated, but it’s not. A true classic of the platform genre, the game’s art, effects, and characters look, feel, and play just as wonderfully on the Switch as they ever did before.
And then there’s THE FEELS. The opening story sequence of Ori and the Blind Forest, similar to Up, leads with a surprisingly emotional scene that catapults the player into the world with conviction and motivation. You, as a small guardian spirit called Ori, are on a quest to rid the forest of the corruption that is killing it by restoring the light of the three elements that balance all things.
No, I’m not upset. Yes, there’s something in my eye.
Ori is a tiny, silent character, but my heart was totally captured by his story and the way he moves. With your tiny spirit companion, named Sein, you’ll wander through twisting and turning labyrinthine maps with plenty to explore, unlock, and gather. As someone who is generally pretty tired of platform games, what delighted me about Ori is the fact that it just doesn’t feel like the same old platform tropes. It takes a lot to refresh such an overdone genre, and the game does so with an organic, soft approach to map elements.
Shapes are curved, jagged, and angled. Moving over the ground feels like the ups and downs of really moving through a natural environment. Every screen feels like a complete fantasy art painting, softly glowing with a mysterious light.
Additionally, there’s a tonne of content to explore, in lots of different ways. As you gain new abilities, it’s fun to go back and explore areas that you weren’t previously able to reach. There’s also a really cute talent tree system that’s fairly simple, but also delightful to work towards completing.
While Ori is lots of fun, I definitely also found it insanely frustrating. This isn’t a casual game, despite what the artstyle may imply. Players should be prepared to master the save system, which requires you to spend your limited energy resources to create a Soul Link. This is a hugely important mechanic, and learning to save when you’re at full health or right before a dangerous traversal is essential to a good experience.
The game, while often flowy and fast to play, can come to a screeching halt when you’re stumped on a tough puzzle or struggling with one of the bosses. I sometimes struggle to review games like this because I just lack the patience to soldier through. This is why a lot of speed platformers just aren’t for me. I really enjoyed the game, but am really there for the continual progression and growth, rather than being stuck forever on one hard part just for the sake of it.
The steep, sudden curve in difficulty can be really irritating at times, especially in the notorious Ginzo Tree area. In one part, water rises from the bottom of the screen, while you have to repeatedly execute a difficult move over and over again to escape from drowning. There are no save points unless you’re playing on Easy mode. If you’re not prepared to patiently try again and again, while dying constantly, this sort of gameplay can get tiresome quickly.
For the best experience with Ori, playing on a good-sized screen with a controller is best. Ori is a tiny white creature on the screen, and while you do get used to the scale, the handheld Switch screen is a tad too small to give the best visibility. Also, you don’t want to throw your entire Switch across the room when you fail to get past a tough spot, right? Don’t let the lack of a giant screen stop you though, the game is still pretty wonderful on the handheld setup and plays well on the go.
Frustrating sections of the game aside, there’s a lot to love here. The art is beautiful, the sounds captivating, and the worlds immersive. Action feels flowing and electric, which makes for an exhilarating experience when you finally do succeed on a challenging section.
Ori and the Blind Forest is a masterpiece with a long held reputation of excellence, and doesn’t disappoint on Switch. If you’re considering a new game, and don’t mind a bit of hardcore platform difficulty, this elegant platformer with a heart of gold is a great selection.