I was not that impressed with Ori and the Blind Forest when I first started playing it: the opening made me think it would be a game about companionship, which could be interesting both narratively and mechanically; but the parent figure gets summarily disposed of at the end of the opening, the pretense of narrative disappears, and it turns into a standard Metroid-style game.

Once I got over my disappointment, though, I decided that it does that Metroid gameplay rather well. The play of the first couple of hours is straightforwardly pleasant; then it starts demanding a little more execution out of you, and then the hammer comes down in the form of the first dungeon, making it clear that the game is going to ask you to perform sequences over and over again until you get them right. And the remaining two thirds of the game stay in that vein: it’s not just the dungeons that are hard, the passages that you have to progress through to get there really do demand your attention.

Except that the pacing is subtler than that. For one thing, part of the Metroid-style experience consists of returning to familiar areas, going through passages that were previously locked or getting pickups that you couldn’t reach before. And that lets you relax a bit, since you don’t have to figure out the tricks, you’re better at the moves, and you’ve got a higher life bar than the last time you were in those regions. Also, the game’s save system gives you a break: it lets you save almost anywhere that isn’t right next to an enemy, and it even slightly refills your life bar when you save. Saving does cost you energy, so it doesn’t let you make the game boring for yourself by saving after every enemy, but in practice energy shows up frequently enough that you can always save if you really feel like you need it, and in fact you can generally even do a couple of nearby saves if you need a double life boost. I’ve never seen a save mechanic quite like this, and I really liked it.

It’s really striking to look at, too: a lovely painted aesthetic, with an organic feel to everything.


So: definitely glad I played it, it’s a well-done example of a genre I haven’t played for a while, and it does a few things very well indeed. I wish it had made some different narrative choices: either stepping back even more or else doing something distinctive with the narrative the way they did with the art. But the moments were good, and that’s what the game’s about.

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