Games of the Year 2015: Ori and the Blind Forest0 Comments
When I first saw that trailer during Microsoft's E3 2014 press conference, I knew Ori and the Blind Forest would be something special. Little did I know that the adventures of a little white critter of massive magical power would put a spell on me so potent that it would last with me forever, and yet here I am during the last days of 2015 still thinking about it.
Everything about this game is beautiful, starting with the visual style. This is the best of early 90s animated movies in video game form and enhanced even further, with vibrant, eye-popping color and landscapes that are masterfully animated. Character movement is fluid and graceful, even during moments of tense action and suspense. This blind forest is a world that needs to be seen to be believed.
Gameplay is that of a classic Metroid or Castlevania game, which brings me to part two of Ori's beauty: nostalgia. This game has classic gaming written all over it, from its retro platforming format to its challenging difficulty. In one playthrough I sent poor Ori to his death over 200 times, all from mistiming jumps or letting the scarier moments get the best of me. Despite its animated exterior, this is not a game to be taken lightly, or it will frustrate to the point of tears.
Layer three of this beautiful package is the emotional story, highlighted perfectly by the intro trailer above. His race wiped out, and his new friend killed Ori must set out into this dangerous world alone, growing stronger with each conquered area and soon becoming a powerful force to be reckoned with. This story is told with barely any words, however, so all of these key moments are happening directly to me the player as I journey through the game. There are moments of grief and elation, bewilderment and anger, but all of it equals one incredible adventure.
The final piece of this puzzle is the marvelous soundtrack composed by Gareth Coker, with every song setting the tone for the actions on-screen perfectly. The music shifts from light and fanciful to heart-pounding as the situation calls, never failing to impress me throughout the game. There have been times where I booted the game just to sit at the title screen and listen to that wonderful song play over and over again, the soft vocals of Aeralie Brighton brightening my day instantly.
Ori and the Blind Forest delights and challenges from beginning to end, hooking me in with a somber opening scene and keeping me around with gameplay that throws back to the best games of yesterday. It's beautiful to see and hear, a benchmark for fantastic animation on Xbox One. I've fallen in love with little Ori and his beautiful Blind Forest, easily making it my personal Game of the Year for 2015.