STAFF REVIEW of Ori and the Blind Forest (Xbox One)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015.
by Brent Roberts

Ori and the Blind Forest Box art When you hear the phrase "indie game" you are immediately filled with a sense that you are in store for another "B movie" experience. There are those times, however, that an indie game defies this classification and propels your gaming experience. Ori and the blind forest can become such a game. I say can because there are aspects that make this game great but at the same time hinder the enjoyment. When you talk about puzzle solving and platforming in the same game you already know that there is a lot to be done to make a game stand out. So will this indie game that was debuted at E3 make a valiant spectacle of gaming or will we get lost within the blind forest? Let's find out.

Ok, for starters the story in the beginning isn't very in depth. Your main character Ori is this white spirit like cat creature thing that becomes adopted for some reason by a smiling bear thingy creature. Then you're orphaned again and thrusted into your platforming / puzzle solving adventure. This all happens within the first few minutes and doesn't really help establish an emotional bond or connection. You do gain a friend / follower in this floating orb named Sein and it's this orb's job to help you navigate throughout this map and restore this tree spirit. Oddly enough it seems like parts of it were ripped straight from Disney movies, and while that may not be bad; if the execution falters, then you lose a tremendous amount of untapped potential. I personally think there needed to be more inclusion and depth in the beginning of the story and more dialogue but that's where one of Ori's strengths reside; The ability to help the story through graphics and sound.

Ori does have a tremendous amount of beautiful graphics that almost remind me of a watercolor masterpiece come to life. Many areas of the map have their own characteristics that lend to one enjoyable visual moment after the next. Stunning sapphire like blues and emerald like greens and volcano reds blanket the individual areas which allow you to get an independent perspective of each new environment. This is apparent right from the beginning and never falters for a moment. While some are mesmerized by the beauty of the graphics, it's nearly impossible to miss the emotion and content relayed by the music of Ori. From start to finish this game has one goal in mind when it comes to its score and that is provide gamers with emotional content that not only were they not expecting, but become thankful for. The developers hit their marks on every note. However we all know that pretty graphics and moving soundscapes won't make a game great, as that responsibility falls on the shoulders of the gameplay.

Numerous games have tried platforming and puzzle solving and very few have succeeded. The key is to make the game's mechanics smooth and easy to use and Ori has done just that and then some. Utilizing a crafty upgrade system you are able to do more than wall jumps and triple jumps, but you are able to upgrade multiple facets of your gameplay to enhance your experience, and while some would garner that this gets in the way of pure platforming, I say that it helps breathe new life into a genre that has seen decades of failures and very few success stories. Given a pre-made map, it's your job to uncover all the areas and discover all the secrets but you will find yourself doing a lot of backtracking once you gain new abilities in order to achieve that goal. There are times when the control scheme does get in the way and you will find yourself having to retry numerous times but overall those moments are few and far between.

Overall Ori and the Blind Forest provides some amazing experiences and is easily worth the price, however if we are honest there are some bugs that prevented this enjoyment. For starters when the game finished installing and I selected the game, it would load up then immediately crash to the Xbox home screen. After doing this four times in a row it brought me to the main menu, but there were no options to select. Then again after reloading it it brought me to the main menu and I had options to select. While I was overjoyed by this I selected achievements and the game froze. I thought this was just another glitch so I reloaded it and experienced the same thing. Keep in mind at this point I have yet to play one minute of this game. Finally I just said forget it and jumped into the game, then when I left the game and came back to it, it gave me this weird black screen seizure flicker experience that was less than enjoyable and thankfully one press of the A button stopped it.

Yes Ori does have some bugs and yes some of them are game breaking, but like some AAA games you can expect patches to be incoming and if you can grit through the initial bumps in the road, Ori and the blind forest will provide you an amazing gaming experience from start to finish.

Overall: 8.7 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.9 / 10
Sound: 9.2 / 10


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