Don’t get me wrong—I actually liked Ori and the Blind Forest. It wasn’t a bad little game on the whole. The art assets and animation were top-notch, if a little bloom-heavy. And frankly, just seeing the word “Metroidvania” in a game description makes me throw money at my screen out of reflex. Who among us didn’t enjoy Super Metroid for SNES, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the original PlayStation, or the numerous directly descended or inspired games thereof? I still think that Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is one of the finest portable experiences money can buy.
Suffice it to say, I was a little excited for a new Metroidvania-style game. The fact that this one got universally glowing reviews warmed even my jaded heart, and I fired up the game with high expectations.
Initially, I was not disappointed. The game opens with a cinematic wherein Ori, a forest spirit, is adopted by Naru, a bear. Their relationship was close, like a parent and child. Suddenly, a disaster sweeps through the forest, and Naru dies as a result. This provides impetus for Ori to restore the forest through exploration.
My description doesn’t do the death of Naru justice: in fact, the scene is heart-wrenching. Many reviewers no doubt bumped their scores up due to the emotional connection on display. And herein lies the real issue with method of review utilized by the gaming press.
You see, game reviewers, by and large, do not finish games anymore. With some games (I’m really just thinking of Bloodborne here), they can be forgiven for not finishing it, since that ability was only granted by the gods to a chosen few. In a game like Ori and the Blind Forest, the game is only somewhat challenging at best. Game reviewers have no excuse to have not finished Ori and the Blind Forest: all it would have taken is time, and not even very much, as I managed to bang it out in about four hours. And at the end of my four hours, what was I rewarded with? Ori manages to restore the forest, which is all well and good, but Naru is also resurrected!
This completely diminishes any impact Naru’s death had on the story. It alters your perception of the opening cinematic in such a way that it feels cheap and unnecessary that Naru died at all. Like in comic books, once death becomes reversible, its impact is largely negated. The resurrection of Naru turns Ori and the Blind Forest into a pointless fetch quest featuring glowing orbs, glowing plants, and a glowing main character. And as I reexamined the game, more criticisms springs up.
Ori is a cheap knockoff of Stitch from the Lilo and Stitch movie. The level design, while well-drawn, becomes bland after you’ve seen it for the fifteenth time. The increasing movement mechanics (single jump, double jump, wall jump, etc) have existed since Symphony of the Night and there’s no advancement here whatsoever. And if you can tell the difference between one glowing orb and another, slightly differently colored glowing orb, good on you. I couldn’t.
Universal Praise, Universally Unfinished
Let’s see what the mainstream gaming media had to say, shall we?
Game Informer gave the game a 9.5 of 10, and actually had the balls to call this game challenging, a game I would describe at its hardest as “mildly difficult”:
Ori and the Blind Forest is every bit as challenging as it is beautiful. From the outset, it delivers the impression that it’s easy to pick up and play, with focus falling more to the visuals than meaningful gameplay trials. It looks like a colorful platformer for everyone. As you progress, you learn that couldn’t be further from the truth.
This statement makes me consider the possibility that the writer doesn’t actually play games for a living. Perhaps he was holding the controller incorrectly?
Destructoid also gave it a 9.5 of 10, despite managing to notice it steals every mechanic from a predecessor:
From a mechanical standpoint, Ori and the Blind Forest isn’t an evolution of the genre, and you’ve seen most of what’s on offer here before. But aesthetically it’s in a league of its own, and everything it does, it does well. If you’re looking for a metroidvania, I’d consider this a new classic.
I’ve reviewed hundreds of games, and some have been a real pain in the ass, for sure. Some games are bad, and I have to play them anyway. Some games are middling, disappointing examples of a great concept and bad execution. Then there are games where I want so badly to stick around in them, to explore and collect everything, to find all their secrets, and I just can’t, because I’m on a deadline.
Good to know the person I am trusting to provide me with the information I need to make a purchase hasn’t done all the research. Really inspiring confidence, aren’t they?
What all of these reviews never reference, even without spoilers, is the ending, which would seem a glaring omission in a game driven by narrative. But this is the world we live in, where even a downloadable title that tops out (if you really wanted to see everything) at six hours is still too long for a reviewer to finish.
Finish The Game Or Tell Me Why You Can’t
Personally, I don’t write reviews for games I haven’t finished, unless they can’t be finished (think multiplayer-only games like the abysmal Evolve). And I’m a freelancer! If I can take the time to fully review a game, surely these “journalists,” whose full-time job it is to do nothing else but write about video games they received for free, can make time out of their busy schedule checking Twitter for the latest triviality to get upset about. Nonsense like this is the reason GamerGate is still going strong after seven months of “being dead.” And until we, as gamers, get the press we deserve, GamerGate is here to stay.