You could tell Ori and the Blind Forest was something a bit different from the moment it debuted on Microsoft’s stage at E3 2014. As the trailer played, hundreds of lights winked into life, filling the auditorium, and we knew this was something a bit special.
The debut game from Moon Studios, a developer of no fixed abode made up of a team of individuals scattered across the globe, Ori is a true labour of love. A ten-hour platform adventure where no two pieces of scenery look alike, everything is hand-crafted with exquisite care, and you can really tell that this is a game that Moon Studios – led by ex-Blizzard cinematic artist Thomas Mahler – have always wanted to make.
We’ve seen a grand revival of the 2D platform-adventure/Metroidvania genre in recent years, owing largely to the booming indie scene, and it’s understandable that some might be starting to feel a little bit of fatigue. If you’re a fan of the genre, however, you owe it to yourself to play Ori – it’s one of the best Metroidvanias the genre has ever seen.
Of course, a platformer lives or dies on how it feels, and here, Ori excels. The best platform games are those that make it a joy to simply move through the world, and it’s clear from the start that Moon Studios understands this. The controls are utterly sublime; there’s the perfect arc of Ori somersaulting through the air, or scrambling up a surface for a second before you execute a wall-jump. There’s the pixel-perfect air control that enables some of the most challenging platformer gameplay we’ve seen in recent years, and with abilities like Bash (which allows you to slingshot Ori off of enemies and projectiles), there’s plenty of opportunity to chain together multiple moves to soar through the air for minutes at a time. Who wants to stay on the ground, anyway? Besides, sometimes it’s literally lava.
And then there’s the presentation. Ori and the Blind Forest is one of the most visually-striking games of the last few years. It’s almost as if the renowned Studio Ghibli decided to create their own platform game, with beautiful, hand-painted fantasy backdrops, and incredible, hand-crafted animations that bring the world and its characters to life. Coupled with a gorgeous, subtly-melancholic orchestrated soundtrack (with occasional, beautiful vocal pieces from Aeralie Brighton), it’s clear that Moon Studios put Microsoft’s financial backing to good use.
The result is a resolutely hardcore, old-school platform-adventure with a thoroughly modern, utterly sumptuous audio-visual presentation. Where the franchise goes from here is currently anyone’s guess – though we are getting an expansion at some point in the future – but one thing is clear: Moon Studios are certainly a team to keep an eye on. If you have the opportunity to play Ori and the Blind Forest, don’t hesitate.