Ori and the Blind Forest: Woodland trusts that you’ll be long-sighted - Games Weekly

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ori and the Blind Forest: Woodland trusts that you’ll be long-sighted

Ever heard of the Brad Pitt Paradox? It’s unlikely, seeing as we’ve just made it up, but it’s when something is so pretty that it doesn’t truly get the credit it deserves. Well, the inverse of that is applicable here: a game so pleasant to look at that you’re predisposed to like it, almost to the point that you ignore some of its flaws.

The strange thing is that while Ori is a truly beautiful game the environments and colour palette never cease to be beguiling it even tries to hide that from you. As you’re platforming around its interconnected woodland labyrinth, the camera is zoomed so far out that the intricacies of the animations and the character present in almost everything you meet is difficult to discern. To an extent this is necessary to facilitate your traversal of the world, especially later, when the platforming becomes more complex, but it’s nevertheless a shame.
“The strange thing is that While ori is a truly Beautiful game, it tries to hide that from you”
And it’s undeniable that, for the game’s opening few hours at least, those visuals are what help pull you through. Ori is about as Metroidvania a game as you’ll ever find that doesn’t have either ‘Metroid’ or ‘Vania’ in the title, at least but your engagement with the forest is fairly rote until you unlock the more powerful abilities. Combat is largely a case of mashing X to send blue sparks of magic flying at your enemies, and for several hours all that really evolves in that regard is that your sparks get bigger and more powerful. Thankfully your moveset does eventually alter, although the benefit is felt more in terms of your navigation than aggression.

Root Manoeuvres
The biggest game-changer is a dash move that allows you to charge enemies and, far more crucially, bounce yourself off incoming projectiles. Time pauses momentarily so that you can select the rebound angle, enabling you to fire up to higher ledges or an effect used to good effect during certain puzzles later on redirect projectiles, or even enemies, into breakable walls. Once you have this, and a later-discovered ground-pound, plus the capability to enter water without dying, bouncing around the Blind Forest becomes a fast-paced, free-flowing joy.

Why, then, does it take more than half the game’s running time to get to this point? As soon as the good stuff starts arriving it comes thick and fast, but you have to trawl through several hours of samey platforming beforehand. Ori isn’t complex enough to require such an extended tutorial section, nor are its initial mechanics engaging enough to make this period enjoyable. Also, the amount of time before you internalise the manual save system is pad-gnawingly frustrating the game may look cutesy, but it doesn’t think twice about kicking you in the keister.

There lies here an excellently designed platformer with an intricate world map and a complementary set of abilities that are enjoyable to mix and match… you just have to stick around long enough to uncover it. The beauty of the whole thing might well get you there, although the gibberish, FernGully-lite storyline certainly won’t. Ori isn’t the panacea to Xbox One’s issues with indie, nor anything we’ve not seen before, but it is a worthwhile take on the familiar. That said, it’s definitely no Brad Pitt.

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