Daily Egyptian

‘Blind Forest’ is a visual masterpiece

By Austin Miller, @AMiller_DE

Never before has a game’s difficulty punched me in the face and kept me around with its beauty.

“Ori and the Blind Forest” has players control a little forest sprite named Ori, whose native home on Nibel has been destroyed by an evil owl.

It is up to Ori to restore the native elements of the land, water, wind and warmth, and along with the beauty of the forest.

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The story itself is pretty straightforward. Go here, get some magic items and move on. But the narrative feels more complex.

Narration is given by both the Spirit Tree and Ori’s guardian Sein, who push the mythical aspects of the forest and add importance to the tasks.

Comparisons can be made to Disney movies like “The Lion King” and “Finding Nemo,” because the game has more mature themes, like death and environmental sustainability, in a product that seems more fitting for kids.

The opening scenes of “Blind Forest” are just as sad as those from “Up,” which should make anyone cry.

Some people may find the story too bland for their tastes, but the environment and animation of the game are delicious eye candy.

Each area and stage was hand-painted by artists at Moon Studios, developers of the game. Every tree, mushroom and flower is one-of-a-kind.

The diversity in on-screen objects is also enhanced by the difference in geographical areas.

Rainforests have some of the most diverse fauna and flora in the world and it is the same in this game. One section is a sun-soaked riverbed, with vibrant yellows and greens. Another is a dark swamp painted with haunting purples and blues.

For a game called “Blind Forest,” it is visually breathtaking. It made me cherish my ability to see. Each scene is art of the highest caliber and could be hung in the Louvre.

Even though the visuals are fantastic, anyone who is actually blind will have their ears pleasured in a similar way. Every stage has great songs tied with it, making players feel like they are actually in the game.

The lighter areas have soft chimes and piano, making players feel a sense of wonder and uncertainty. Ori is a child in a new world and the music gives players the feel of being a lost child.

Darker areas have beating drums, inspiring terror and fear.

As mentioned before, some might believe this is a child’s game on first glance, and the simple controls reflect that.

Each button does its own job, making the gameplay fairly simple. But that is a good thing because of how tough the game actually is.

“Blind Forest” is a 2D platformer similar to classics like “Castlevania” or 2013’s “Rayman Legends.”

“Blind Forest” is comparable to “Rayman Legends” in terms of art style and gameplay. Both see players jumping platform-to-platform and collecting items, but “Blind Forest” is more difficult.

Various enemies like stone turtles, giant spiders and murderous crows give each stage an added challenge. Navigating the map is like solving a puzzle, so having to defeat several enemies makes the game more than child’s play.

For example, after restoring the water, Ori must ascend to the top of a Ginso tree before it floods, causing Ori to drown.

Jumping and flying through the heart of the tree is fast-paced and tense, regardless of dumb, little spiders annoying you as you go. This level took me more than an hour, and I was more angered at the fact I had to deal with those nuisances, instead of focusing on keeping my head above water.

Completing that stage was one of the most gratifying experiences I have felt in recent games, but just navigating the course would have given me the same feeling.

I had so much fun exploring and collecting upgrades and I wish there were not any enemies to fight. Not every game needs players to kill things, and I think “Blind Forest” would have benefited from a pacifistic approach.

Little orbs can be collected to grant Ori new abilities. It can learn to attack multiple enemies at once and restore health upon saving the game.

“Blind Forest” has a minimal skill tree, and easy for anyone to learn, but players can finish the game without unlocking anything. I would not recommend that, though. Do not punish yourselves more than you have to.

How “Blind Forest” saves the game is new and fresh. In a world dominated by checkpoints, it lets players save their own game wherever they want as long as they have collected some energy shards.

This puts all the responsibility on the player to save as they see fit. It is a tough concept to grasp at first, but is something I hope to see more in the future.

“Ori and the Blind Forest” continues a trend of independent developers having their crazy ideas funded and producing great content.

Big, blockbuster games like “Call of Duty” and “Battlefield” only experiment when sales start to dive. But indie studios are constantly innovating the gaming world and pushing into the future.

Funding is always an issue for those small studios, so it is great to see Microsoft highlighting these teams and giving them development kits for free.

“Blind Forest” takes players through a refreshing gaming experience and was a pleasant surprise for the year.

4 stars out of 5

Austin Miller can be reached at [email protected]

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