Game On: Xbox exlusive, “Ori and the Blind Forest,” delivers on quality and emotion

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Recently, there have been a slew of indie games on the market, though only very few possess the high quality and emotion of the Xbox exclusive, “Ori and the Blind Forest.” A clip of “Ori” was shown at last year’s E3 press conference. Though it was one of the more intriguing-looking games, it wasn’t widely regarded up until its recent release. To my pleasant surprise, it was one of the most emotional experiences I have had playing a video game in quite a while.

If you look at “Ori and the Blind Forest” on paper, it looks like just a “Metroid” / “Castlevannia” (“Metroidvania”) style game — which are all the rage these days. This game in particular, however, has something this style of game usually lacks: gorgeous art style and an incredible story.

Ori is the last spirit guardian who must figure out why the blind forest is dying; all the while evading the evil owl, Kuro. “Ori and the Blind Forest” is a tale of friendship between two very different characters, Ori and Naru, whose friendship is one of the most heartfelt story lines I’ve come across in recent years. The set-up of the story makes it all the more heart-wrenching once you see what plays out.

Ori and Naru’s home, Nibel Forest, is on the brink of destruction, filled with deadly predators, hankered by dangerous obstacles and rife with sadness. Ori finds out he posses the great power of bringing life back to the world. He must explore and find out what is killing the forest before it’s too late.

The story isn’t the only great thing about “Ori and the Blind Forest.” The game play seems simple, but it is actually pretty hard to master. On the surface, it looks like a platforming game, when in actuality it is very challenging, especially considering there is so much to explore. The early levels aren’t so bad, but the level of difficulty becomes so challenging, I wasn’t sure I would finish the game. It could get frustrating, but I always wanted to see what happened next and continue exploring regardless.

Ori gains new abilities throughout the game, which are a lot of fun and make for fresh and inventive game play. The amount of places to explore is pretty absurd, and you will want to explore every nook and cranny to find all of the power-ups and abilities you can. Every time I saw a piece of the map not filled in, I was compelled to see what was there.

The game primarily involves platforming and exploration, though there is also plenty of fighting. You have to really master all sorts of weapons and abilities. Even when you do discover all of the weapons and powers, though, Ori never feels too over-powered and the game remains consistently challenging.

No auto-save feature exists — all progress is saved manually. In order to do that, however, Ori must forfeit some life energy, which can be hard to come by early in the game. This tends to make game play increasingly more frustrating, especially if you forget to save occasionally.

Overall, I loved “Ori and the Blind Forest.” It offers some of the best exploration and platforming game play around, along with some of the most enchanting graphics and art styles I have seen in a while. The difficulty may be a little much for some people, but if you stick with it, you will feel a great sense of accomplishment. This is truly a story that leaves a lasting impression. If you like “Metroidvania” games, you are going to love “Ori and the Blind Forest.” If you are looking for a great game to play on your Xbox, you should give this game a look. It is one of the best games that has come out this year.