Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Drew Hurley 16.12.2019 1

Review for Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition on Nintendo Switch

Every year E3 brings an avalanche of new and exciting prospects to its audience, and every year the exclusive games tempt rival console owners towards the platforms they don't own. Case in point, Ori and the Blind Forest. At the 2014 Microsoft press conference, this stunning title wowed those in attendance and for many "Xbox Exclusive" that flashed up onto the screen was massively disappointing. Flash forward five years, and the relationship that is blossoming between Microsoft and Nintendo is giving those who didn't pick up an Xbox one chance to finally experience it.

The opening of Ori and the Blind Forest delivers a wonderful and magical gut-punch; the storytelling and style of it all feeling reminiscent of the legendary works of Hayao Miyazaki. The titular Ori is a magical little forest sprite; a being of white light energy that is an amalgamation of a few of the cutest animals the creators could smash together. Something like an anthropomorphic fennec fox, mixed with a cat, mixed with a rabbit. This adorable little being is whisked away from its home at the great Spirit Tree of Light, when a huge storm wracks the forest, flinging Ori far into the surrounding forest, where Ori is found by Naru. Ori is portrayed as being very young, possibly even a baby, and Naru is a hulking, matronly creature that takes in Ori.

After this makeshift family is introduced in the heart-warming prologue, the pair explores the forest, gathers berries to eat, and crafts bridges over rivers. They have an idyllic little life... until the light is snatched out of the forest. The great Spirit Tree imbued the whole forest with light and life, the two inexplicably linked, meaning when the light was snuffed out, so goes life. Worse than the great storm, the Spirit Tree is attacked by a monstrous Owl. With the Spirit Tree gone life disappears from the forest, reducing it to a rotten husk, devoid of the food that kept Naru and Ori going. That new little makeshift family suddenly without any food is split apart.

Screenshot for Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition on Nintendo Switch

Ori is drawn back to its birth, to the great Spirit Tree by another Spirit of Light named Sein that leads Ori and on a grand quest through the forest to restore the Light. To travel across the forest, to collect keys that open the way to temples and within those temples to restore a little more light to the forest, all building to restoring the Spirit Tree and the Forest itself - but, within the forest, the great shadowy owl, Kuro, is still keeping watch.

The beginning of the game belies the challenge that comes later. It feels like a pretty, but simple platformer. Ori runs and jumps through areas filled with aggressive creatures of the forest. Bounding frogs, spitting spiders, charging bugs. Ori can despatch them all thanks to Sein, as mashing a button sends projectiles of light that make quick work of them - expect this, combined with some basic platforming sequences and puzzles. All standard fare that anyone who has played this type of metroidvania will be tremendously familiar with, but what elevates it is the stunning presentation.

Ori and the Blind Forest makes an instant impression with its fully-realised, gorgeous world. The creators cite Ghibli as a strong inspiration, and it's easy to see its influence. It plays out within the expansive forest of Nibel, something that feels straight out of a Miyazaki story. That forest is widely diverse; a flaming mountain, a dark land beneath the roots, a temple of water. Each area feeling distinct and supported by an enchanting, mellow soundtrack.

Screenshot for Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition on Nintendo Switch

What shines the most about Ori and the Blind Forest is the central character itself. Ori's character design is adorable, and the effort put into the sprite is fantastic. Every little animation feels deeply detailed. Scrambling up ledges, the impact of landing from a high jump, how its head tracks around the other creatures in the environment. It's the little details like this that help the presentation stand out. Ori is a being of Light, but the creatures of shadow are just as realised, the creatures of the forest are also dark and imposing, but nothing compared to the dread shadow of Kuro. A gargantuan force of destruction that constantly looms in the darkness.

Back to the gameplay itself, though. The first few hours are charming but without much challenge. Simple platforming puzzles. Then as the game progresses, the age-old, familiar abilities of these types of platformers are slowly unlocked, and the difficulty begins to rise. A popular type of puzzle sees a series of crystal pieces floating above deadly spikes or bubbling pools lava, with all four needed to be collected and used to open the door. The later areas are filled with jumping puzzles that require speedy reflexes and precise accuracy, but they don't hold a candle to the few sequences where the very environment assaults Ori. These sections see it trying to scale the interior of a tree filling with water has Ori speeding to the roof while the water rises faster and faster. Within a volcano, a tidal wave of lava crashes towards the cute hero. The biggest challenge comes from Kuro itself. Sections where Ori has to flee through collapsing scenery, taking cover wherever possible.

Outside of these sections, the bulk of the journey can be overcome by making use of the Soul Link system. Ori can use Spirit energy to form a save point known as a Soul Link anywhere on stable ground where there are no enemies. Meaning it cuts the difficulty way down when it's easy to repeatedly make save points around any sort of tricky area, occasionally even between obstacles.

Screenshot for Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition on Nintendo Switch

As with most metroidvanias like this, as this progresses Ori unlocks some of the usual flavours of ability of the genre. Ori gains a double jump, the ability to wall jump, climb walls, air dash; each ability a requirement for overcoming the subsequent area, but also for backtracking and tracking down items to enhance Ori. Scattered across the expansive map are Spirit Orbs and Health Orbs to expand Ori's supply along with Ability Orbs that grant instant points for unlocking new abilities. These points can also be accrued by killing enemies, though that process is quite slow going and only a few can be unlocked without tracking down these items.

The abilities that can be unlocked fall under three distinct areas, either exploration, combat, or movement. Combat enhances Ori's various attacks, making each fly faster, hit harder and go further. Exploration unlocks the ability to show rare items on the map, to receive bonus energy, and absorb energy from further away. Finally, the movement tree gives Ori the ability to perform a triple jump, breath underwater, and gives bonuses like restoring health when creating a Soul Link.

This is the definitive edition, and as such, there's more here than what was in the original. There are new difficulty modes as options, and a new system of fast travel to get around and explore areas to assist in tracking down all the collectables. The biggest additions though are two entirely new areas to explore, the Black Root Burrows and the Lost Grove. The Black Root Burrows gives some extra backstory to the tale, detailing the history of Ori's adoptive parent Naru. It also delivers a decent amount of challenge in a pitch-black environment and some new skills to unlock. These new skills are essential to progress in the second area; the Lost Grove. This further details Naru's past, and offers another ability that helps reveal collectables hidden throughout the rest of the game.

Screenshot for Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

The Switch's catalogue of Metroidvania titles was already impressive - though ironically it's still lacking an actual Metroid - and now its ranks have been bolstered by one of the best in recent memory. Ori and the Blind Forest is an absolute masterpiece, a beautiful story polished to perfection in both its artistic design and core gameplay mechanics. The utterly beautiful presentation and soundtrack crafts a charming and memorable world and there are more stories in that world to come as Ori and the Will of the Wisps landing on Xbox One in a few months. Hopefully, the Switch version comes shortly after.

Developer

Xbox Game Studios

Publisher

Xbox Game Studios

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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