ORI AND THE BLIND FOR­EST

EDGE - - MICROSOFT - Pub­lisher Mi­crosoft De­vel­oper Moon Stu­dios For­mat PC, Xbox One Re­lease Au­tumn

Even af­ter play­ing for just half an hour, there’s a sense of in­trigue to Moon Stu­dios’ Ori And The Blind For­est. The story is served in brief snip­pets, told by the for­est’s ghosts as you ex­plore its shad­owy glades. All that’s clear is that the for­est is not what it once was, that the spir­its who once called it home have de­parted, and that its new in­hab­i­tants are malev­o­lent.

“Ori is a Metroid­va­nia game,” says di­rec­tor Thomas Mahler. “We cre­ated the game be­cause we grew up on games like Link To The Past and Su­per Metroid, and people al­ways ask why no­body makes games like that any more, so we made one. I was afraid of people see­ing it at the con­fer­ence and think­ing it’s just an­other arty game, but there’s so much more to it than what we showed on stage.”

Ori, Mahler says, is a com­ing-of-age story. Play­ers guide the lit­tle cat-like Ori deep into the woods, un­lock­ing new abil­i­ties as they ex­plore and thus open­ing up new ar­eas in the clas­sic Metroid­va­nia fash­ion. Here, though, com­bat is a sec­ondary con­cern, han­dled by the float­ing orb which acts as both your guide and weapon, strik­ing at any­thing nearby while Ori evades the in­com­ing threats and pro­vid­ing a help­ing hand with tu­to­rial ad­vice and story ex­po­si­tion. Ori moves with a speed and flu­id­ity that has more in com­mon with Su­per Meat Boy than Sa­mus Aran, and guid­ing the lit­tle sprite around the game’s ethe­real world is a tac­tile de­light.

“We wanted to do two things,” Mahler says. “First, we wanted to make the plat­form­ing per­fect. That’s why you don’t ac­tu­ally have to aim at en­e­mies; we’re more fo­cused on the pix­elper­fect plat­form­ing. Sec­ond, we wanted to tell a story. In a 2D plat­former a deep, in­volv­ing, emo­tional story is al­most the last thing you think of, but we think we can give these char­ac­ters very hu­man is­sues with very hu­man prob­lems that people can ac­tu­ally con­nect to.”

In the short demo, which is torn from the game’s early stages, Ori im­me­di­ately con­fronts play­ers with some treach­er­ous plat­form­ing chal­lenges – care­ful wall-jump­ing is nec­es­sary to nav­i­gate a spiked path, for in­stance, while a slid­ing block must be pushed up­hill past whirling barbs to clear an other­wise im­pass­able gap.

A gen­er­ous save sys­tem lets play­ers drop a restart point be­fore any par­tic­u­larly de­vi­ous piece of plat­form­ing tor­ture, but saves are a fi­nite re­source un­til the right up­grade has been unlocked. Mahler men­tions

Su­per Meat Boy time and again, and the save sys­tem threat­ens a de­gree of plat­form­ing chal­lenge in the endgame that will de­mand the im­me­di­acy of an in­stant restart point in or­der to al­le­vi­ate player frus­tra­tion.

“All of it has to work per­fectly,” Mahler says. “That’s why we’ve been in de­vel­op­ment for over four years. We don’t ac­cept any­thing that isn’t pol­ished. When people fin­ish this game, I want them to be breath­less. The best films make you think, ‘Oh my god, that was amaz­ing,’ and we want to give people that feel­ing in a videogame, ab­so­lutely.”

Ori’s spa­ces are colour­coded much like those of Su­per Metroid, giv­ing play­ers a help­ing hand on men­tally map­ping the sprawl­ing 2D world

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