One glance at Moon Studios' Ori and the Blind Forest is enough to be immediately enamored by the game's visuals. Actually, it's almost an inevitability. Every piece of media that Microsoft releases for Ori draws attention to the glistening colors and stunning backdrops. Not as if that can be helped, mind you; it's a part of the design that just tends to precede everything else.
At its press demos at gamescom 2014, Moon Studios was almost sheepish about the fact. It was well aware of the recognition that the game has gotten for its looks thus far. Now, it wanted to show that Ori's brilliance is rooted in something deeper.
For the 30-minute showing, Moon only really wanted to talk about the gameplay and platforming aspects of Ori. Starting approximately three hours into the game, the demo began right as a new mechanic was obtained -- the bash ability. It's just one of the several unique mechanics that will be introduced as Ori runs its course, but the core philosophy will be the same each time.
Like all well-designed games, Ori makes sure that the player knows how to use the tools in its arsenal. When something new is opened, the next several sections will ensure that the player's honed -- if not perfected -- the skill before moving on. Later in the game, an amalgamation of the abilities combined with some platforming prowess will be the only way to advance, so it's essential to know them early.
In our demo, bash (which might as well have been called "dash") was the one that Moon wanted to focus on. It's a multi-faceted tool with many uses to accomplish different goals. With regard to puzzle solving, it's a means to redirect projectiles in different directions. In terms of combat, it's a handy alternate attack if you ever feel like switching things up. And, maybe most crucially, it bolsters the platforming by adding some much-needed distance mid-jump.
Even though Ori looks as if it'll be a lot of things, that last one's the heart of the entire experience -- the platforming. Without it, Ori would be just another beautiful puzzle game (not that there's anything wrong with that). However, it's the incessant platforming challenges that make the game a true test of skill -- something that looks as if it'll cause actual frustration instead of being a walk in the park.
Luckily, that frustration won't come as a result of Ori's ineptitude. If the final release is as polished as the demo was, any failures will fall squarely on the player's shoulders. It's been a long time since I've felt platforming controls that were as tight as Ori's, evoking memories of my time spent with Super Meat Boy. That's not bad company to have in this conversation.
Really, that's the aspect of Ori and the Blind Forest that I'm most excited about -- the well-controlled platforming. These games can have a million tricks up their sleeves -- gorgeous aesthetics, unique mechanics, wondrous music -- the list could go on forever. But, without a solid core tenet tying everything together, it'll ultimately come off as sloppy. Fortunately, that's not the case with Ori; it's poised to be a platformer that we remember for a long time, and not just because it looks so damn good.
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