Ori and the Blind Forest (2015)

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OatBF is pretty much one of the best surprises for metroidvania-fans in recent years. A highly polished game that seemingly came out of nowhere and that does nearly everything right (nearly, because the PC-versions went unpatched for 2 months, which stopped me and probably a lot of other people from actually playing the game). Gameplay-wise, a lot of reviews agree that it is one of the most refined variations of the genre, even if it doesn’t do anything original.

Not sure I agree there, as the game has some stuff that you won’t find in any other metroidvania or platformer, from the setting (reminiscent of Miyazaki movies) with its entirely nature-derived levels and mostly tech-free mechanisms, the overall feel of the gameplay that allows you to make incredible long and intricate jumps and makes it seem easy (I’m not sure I ever played a game that evokes the same feeling). While at its core a metroidvania, the game has taken some notes from cinematic platformers, especially the highly fluid movement animations. An excellent make-your-own save point system (never seen something like that in any other game) I would like to see crop in other games too.

All that together with a clever progression system where you can upgrade a three-pronged ability tree and also skills you get from various items that allow you to proceed beyond some of the hard-locked areas typical for a metroidvania. Basically the game has some unique new stuff while also following most of the conventions of the genre, all together in a highly polished package that is just a pure joy to play. I wasn’t a big fan of the story per se, but it didn’t bother me much and the core gameplay is just so good that I didn’t mind seeing the occasional superfluous plot-scene.

One thing the game doesn’t have are any real boss fights, you have some minor and easily defeated sub bosses, but nothing major that puts a big obstacle in your way. Instead the game has three slightly more difficult sequences where you’re forced along a certain path without the ability to save. It requires mastery of all the skills acquired up to that point and can be a bit annoying, as finishing these requires a bit of trial and error and memorization of the entire sequence.

It does go against the spirit of metroidvania’s in general, but on the other hand these sequences are never unfair if you’ve learned to use all the abilities to some degree and one you’ve beaten them it gives a high the game rarely offers (which you usually get in much more demanding games, overall Ori is pretty easy). Depending on the player it varies which of these sequences is more difficult, I managed the first two in 2 or 3 tries, but had a problem with the last (because I forgot to use one ability), but overall they should be doable after a few tries for most players.