INDIE games are often successful if they can produce innovative gameplay, a clever design or a simple but satisfying mechanic. Unfortunately they usually have access to very limited resources and must compromise in areas such as graphics and complexity in order to see completion. Ori and the Blind Forest, developed by Moon Studios, is unique in that it is a very simple game with great design that has been backed by Microsoft Studios. The result is a high budget 2D Platform Adventure Game with the feel of an indie developer.
Ori, our little forest critter of light, runs and jumps from region to region as you explore the forest and fight your enemies. It is very reminiscent of the early days of interactive environments – titles such as Duke Nukem, Commander Keen or Prince of Persia come to mind – except instead of 8-bit graphics and random computer hardware noises we have stunning high-definition artwork and an orchestral soundtrack for the ages.
The game is quite simple in nature and focuses around solving various puzzles to save the forest in which Ori lives. You gradually progress and learn the abilities required to solve these puzzles, and with each new ability an extra layer of complexity is added. As the difficulty and requirements for concentration rise, so does the sense of satisfaction that comes with completion.
The incredible graphics and music only serve to enhance the gameplay as you seamlessly transition from forest to swampland to ruins, or when player input ends and a cut-scene begins. The moral of the story is of love and kindness and, in keeping with its nostalgic counterparts, is very basic. However, influenced by the lofty standards set by the rest of the game, I was hoping for a little more. Fortunately the game’s brilliance does not center on its storytelling but lies instead in its ability to instill wonder and awe at a new, magical world without the complexities of decision-making, NPCs or the rise of some evil-doer from beyond the realms.
The game is ultimately very enjoyable and I was continually impressed with the graphical fidelity and wonderful musical accompaniment. I can highly recommend playing it as long as you are prepared to be humming the main melody around the house for a few days.
By Zachery Brandstater