This will be a short review, since Ori and the Blind Forest needs very little introduction. Originally released on Xbox One and PC in 2015, it’s a sign of the growing relationship between Microsoft and Nintendo that this now comes to the Switch. If you haven’t had the means to play it before, you’re in for a real treat.
Right from the first scene, Ori and the Blind Forest packs an emotional punch; if you’re the sort of person who cries at Disney films then have a box of tissues ready. For a game with so little dialogue, it conveys so much through movement and sound. Combining animation that matches up to the best Hollywood can offer, music that creates all the atmosphere you’ll ever need, and a story filled with joy, loss, and redemption, this game is something you need to experience.
And make no mistake, the game does look beautiful. The different areas you visit are wonderfully varied, and you’ll want to explore everywhere. The art direction is also a particular highlight, which makes clever use of things like perspective and light. Ori himself is one of the cutest little characters you’ll come across, and the emotional connection you forge with him is something you don’t often get in video games.
For Nintendo fans the game may fill a Metroid-shaped hole, as you control Ori on a journey filled with exploration and danger. Your quest is to reclaim the three elements that keep the forest of Nibel in balance, and there will be plenty of nasty beasties (and a big scary owl) that will prevent you from doing this. The game is relatively simple to start with. The only movement is jumping, but you’ll soon unlock extra abilities like wall and double jumps. Combat is also very simple, and Ori is accompanied by a spirit called Sein, who will fire balls of flame at the tap of a button. These flames home in on enemies, leaving you free to concentrate on avoiding the movements of these creatures. The combat remains largely the same throughout, so can start to feel a little repetitive, but there are ways of finessing it and some new abilities available in the definitive edition. A simple skill tree is also present, allowing you to upgrade all of your abilities.
The definitive edition contains new abilities, new areas, and new story content included. There is also an improved fast travel system, which makes exploration much more user-friendly, and added difficulty settings. Even if you played the original game, this version will give you plenty of additional content to sink your teeth into. The new area, Black Root Burrows, is yet another visually unique environment, shrouded in darkness with limited light sources. Originally there was only one difficulty settings, but you can now adjust this to suit your play. If you really like a challenge you can try the new “One Life” difficulty mode.
The Switch port is perfect, with no performance issues at all and both in handheld and docked the game looks beautiful. My only small criticism is that the game has always featured a camera that is zoomed out quite far. This is no problem on a large TV, but in handheld mode things are obviously very small, which can make things a little difficult to see. A number of times I was caught out by enemy attacks that were obscured by the environment, or could not quite tell where a safe landing was during a platforming section. This is, however, a very small problem and does not hamper your enjoyment too much.
If you only have Switch and have never played this game, then I urge you to go out and get it. It’s a great port, and there are no concerns over how the game plays on the Nintendo console. It remains a stunningly beautiful and emotional journey, one that will stay with you for a long time.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*