Beautiful Platforming - Beer Pairing and Review for Ori and the Blind Forest
The Nitty Gritty:
Game: Ori and the Blind Forest
Developer: Moon Studios
Release Date: March 11, 2015
Price: $20 on Steam at the time of this writing
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a big fan of platform games. While every other kid was waist deep in all things Nintendo, I was learning to type and using a mouse with Sierra Online adventure games. Twitch jumping has never been my cup of tea. I still suck at Mario. Yet Moon Studios may have changed my opinion on the whole genre, thanks to their great effort with Ori and the Moon Forest.
I could try to explain the plot, but it’s much more interesting to see it unfold rather than have me explain it. Suffice to say, you are Ori, an orphan spirit type thing trying to save the forest from Kuro, a gigantic owl. Moon Studios does a nice job conveying emotion while it spins its yarn, even if you’re not sure what’s going on all the time. The beginning of the game is touching, tender, and unique. This is worth mentioning because in the ten hours it took to play it all the way through, there were moments of cuteness throughout. Even the villain has a perfectly adorable reason for its actions. This is a charming addition to the otherwise foreboding environments Ori traipses through. The forest is full of danger, yet the sweet innocence of it all is what you’re left with while playing.
Let it be said now that the environments are incredibly well done. This is a 2D platforming game at heart, so it wasn’t all that necessary to create exceedingly original backgrounds. Yet Moon Studios have outdone themselves. The game is delightfully colorful, full of vibrant blues and reds. Where there’s fire, there are embers floating around you, making the air appear hot and bothered. Where there’s wind, there are leaves drifting by, full of clever animations to let you know that you can use a feather and fly there. The little things in the background add to the immersion, and bring an old game design to the present day with a pleasing presentation. Moreover, the music is absolutely perfect for this game. It’s ethereal, breathy, and beautiful. Intense moments in the gameplay occasionally drive up the tempo, but the soundtrack never feels fast or overly exciting. I am reminded of the dark yet beautiful motifs from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast soundtrack. It cannot be understated how pleasing it is to hear.
The level design is top notch. A lot of the puzzles can be figured out with a little experimentation, and some of them require to make use of all the skills little Ori has to offer. As Ori learns new skills, like blasting off an enemy or jumping super high, the map opens up almost organically. It is a pretty dangerous world out there for a little white forest spirit and just about everything other than solid ground can hurt you. This becomes all too apparent in the later levels were solid ground becomes a rarity, and you are forced to be in a constant state of jump, bouncing off of enemies and walls like a pretty little pinball.
There are moments where this game becomes frustratingly hard. Games can be saved only when you gather the power to do so, and can only be done on solid ground. In some moments where Ori is being chased or has to escape, this becomes readily apparent. The moments of escape are fun and frantic, but drag on much too long. Moves need to be executed precisely and one mistake out of a hundred exact moves means you have to start over at the beginning of the sequence. I found that I spent a lot of time doing the same moves over and over again while I tried to figure out where to go next. This isn’t a game-breaker by any means, but the frustration can overstay its welcome. I rage-quit a few times while getting through it. This might just be because I suck at these types of games. I died a total of 977 times playing the whole way though. Take that for what it is. Mileage no doubt varies when it comes to difficulty.
The controls are simple enough and are easy to learn. That being said, this game absolutely requires a controller to play. If you don’t have an Xbox 360 controller for the PC, you might want to pick one up before trying this out. The keyboard cannot compare to the level of finesse a controller can provide. I used the keyboard only a couple minutes before switching over to the controller. Save yourself the couple of minutes and just take my word for it.
Ori and the Blind Forest is a refreshing game for the PC in that 2D platformers generally don’t get the port treatment. I’m relieved every time a studio takes a chance on PCs, even more so when it’s not the type of game that PCs are known for. My only hope is that PC developers continue to think outside of the box and keep trying new things. If the game is good enough, like Ori and the Blind Forest, people will buy them, people will talk about them, and the company will make a bunch of money. It’s as simple as that.
All in all, there is a lot of enjoyment to be had as you help Ori save the forest. Even when the game becomes punishingly difficult, the original environments and clever level design keep you wanting to get past those roadblocks. This is easily recommended for anyone with a controller and a little patience.
By the Numbers
Graphics – 9 – For a game where graphics are usually not a major factor, Ori and the Blind Forest is very pretty to look at. The lush colors and playful animations feel like something out of a big budget animation film.
Sound/Music – 10 – The music is perfection. Its wispy melodies and clever minimalism never overstays its welcome. This would be a great soundtrack to buy just to listen to.
Price/Value – 8 – At $20 bucks, the ten hour game is easily worth the price. Plus, buying tells the developers to make more games of this quality. You owe it to the rest of the community to buy a copy.
Replayability – 5- There’s no real reason to play again, unless you’re the type of person that needs to uncover every secret in the game.
The “Skew” factor – 9 – There’s a lot to like about this game. I got frustrated with it at times, but its unforgiving nature may just be a good thing.
Bottom line – 9 – I never thought I’d see the day where a platforming game would be one of my favorite games of the year. Ori and the Blind Forest has great design, a cute story, and a beautiful presentation. It’s originality and homage to the old platforming days is a great addition to any serious gamer’s library. Its cuteness only helps its case.
To celebrate reclaiming the lush, green forest, I recommend drinking Sierra Nevada’s Summerfest while playing Ori and the Blind Forest. Like Ori, Summerfest feels remarkably fresh, light and easy to get into. Yet there is a lot of complexity in the malt. It is balanced with a healthy dose of hops, but is by no means overwhelming. It’s a perfect beer for enjoying the outdoors on a summer day.