Ori and the Blind Forest Is a Sight to Behold

With Ori and the Blind Forest – which launched yesterday for Xbox One – independent developer Moon Studios’ goal was to create an action-platformer with a precise, modernized feel. The game effectively merges the micro with the macro, thrusting players into massive, sprawling levels and letting them traverse those levels with pixel-perfect accuracy. This is platforming, evolved.But first things first: as is apparent in screenshots (and even more apparent in motion), Ori is an absolutely beautiful sight to behold. Its graphical style is heavily inspired by Japanese animation – particularly the likes of Studio Ghibli – with glowing lights and various flowing flora filling every frame. While the game plays in 2D, the visual design is anything but, with layers of scenery that stretch deep into the background.

is divided into individual areas, and each one is a huge 2D space that you can explore as you desire. As the titular Ori, you gain experience and unlock abilities over time, allowing you to explore the world in new ways. Enemies aren’t always simply, well, enemies as much as they are puzzle elements. Take for instance, one early level, which grants you the “bash” ability: This lets you fasten yourself onto enemies and/or projectiles, and fling them (with yourself attached) in various directions. You use this to both propel yourself and redirect projectiles, aiming them at destructible walls, flippable switches… or even other enemies.

Each of 
Ori’s areas is devoted to exploring a particular gameplay mechanic. One level – Forlorn Ruins – plays with gravity. As you move through the level, you must carry a light vessel to traverse dangerous areas. This light vessel keeps you grounded to whatever direction you’re facing; as long he’s on solid ground, Ori’s good – even if that ground is upside-down. There’s a mechanic that allows you to stop time and jump through sideways-gravity sections and onto tiny platforms. But beware: spikes abound, and falling on them hurts from any direction.

Ori’s save system is unique. You can drop a respawn spot – known in the game fiction as a “Soul Link” – at nearly any safe place on the map, letting you pick up where you left off. However, these quick-saves require energy, which must recharge over time. Overall, the mechanic adds another layer of strategy to play, requiring you to think carefully about where you drop your Soul Links.

Ori and the Blind Forest
is just about as lush, otherworldly and delightful as gaming gets. For hard core platformer fans and newcomers alike, it’s a striking return to form for the genre. Check it out now on Xbox One!