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Published March 22, 2015

Sun_Mar_22_13-30-09_EDT_2015Few games are focused on executing basic mechanics as much as Ori and the Blind Forest. The attention to the fundamentals of a platformer result in an identity that is reminiscent of classics - Metroid, Castlevania and the like - but still uniquely, fiercely its own. Attacking enemies is automatic; the glowing spirit following you, Sein, lances out targeted attacks at the press of a button. The lack of precise aiming says everything you need to know about the game: Ori is about the platforming.

The quality of platforming controls is a subjective matter; to my hands and eyes, Ori falls high on the scale. The game has some float to the air control but it matches my expectations perfectly. Combine the fluid controls with the charming animations of the characters and the result is an experience that left me with a big beaming grin on my face. Ori bounces around corners and off walls with varying animations, from flipping backwards off of walls to spinning in the air. The variety gives the silent protagonist a spirit that you don’t find in a lot of games anymore. (The marketing potential of Ori plushies at conventions is immense.)

Levels are lush and detailed. The platforming challenges are inventive and use the various abilities Ori receives - wall running, springing off of enemies, gliding with a leaf - in combination very quickly. Make no mistake, Ori and the Blind Forest is a challenging game. It will throw memorization heavy platforming puzzles at you in succession at the drop of a hat. The game goes so far as to record your total number of deaths, a move that is equal parts encouragement and taunt.

Wed_Mar_11_19-56-41_EDT_2015But the saving system is there to mitigate the challenge however you choose. You can create a save point anywhere, and there are fountains on the maps that are dedicated save points as well. So if a section looks challenging or you’re low on life, you can simply drop a save point and retry a challenge quickly. This wouldn’t work so well if the respawn time wasn’t as short as it is.

It should come as no surprise when this game comes back up at the end of the year for Top 5 discussions. The visuals, the gameplay, the story, the animation, the music - there’s just too much right with this game. There are a few glitches here and there, the instant resume on Xbox One is broken, and there are occasional frame-drops when switching areas, but they are so easy to forgive when so much of the game is so charming.

I'm thinking about playing it right now, in fact I'm probably playing it as we speak...

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