Ori and the Blind Forest’s announcement during Microsoft’s E3 press conference brought immediate praise for its unique style. I was able to go hands-on and was impressed with the game’s visual superiority and its throwback to the side scrolling Metroid-style gameplay.
I can’t state this enough: Ori and the Blind Forest is a looker. Ori’s hand drawn style is easy on the eyes. The environments glow with colorful hues while also looking like a moving painting. The use of depth of field to make the backgrounds look distant, particle effects during combat, and a gorgeous glowing effect around Ori lend to its beautiful aesthetic. The glowing effect in particular is used as a gameplay mechanic to light areas as you enter them.
Don’t let the visual fidelity distract from Ori and the Blind Forest being a platformer with some light RPG elements that unlock with progress. Starting out with just a one button jump, you are given a skill tree that unlocks additional abilities to allow for further game progression. Soul Magnet, which makes collecting souls dropped by enemies easier, and Rekindle, which retains Ori’s energy when saving, change the way the game is played in significant ways.
Saving your game becomes a give and take of its own. Before acquiring Rekindle, saving your game uses Ori’s energy to create soul links unless you are at designated save points. It’s up to the player to decide if they want to use energy to create soul links and go into battles weaker or not save and risk dying.
As you progress, there will be areas you will have to come back to after gaining a new ability. Moon Studios, the developers, said Metroid and Castlevania were major inspirations for Ori and the Blind Forest, which is very obvious after going hands-on. Pixel perfect jumping is a must to progress. Expect to be challenged.
Ori and the Blind Forest is scheduled to be released in fall of 2014 exclusively on Xbox One and Xbox 360 in 2015. If what I played was any indication, with retro gameplay and RPG elements underneath a beautiful aesthetic, Ori and the Blind Forest is one to keep on your radar.