ORI AND THE BLIND FOREST
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