I’m not quite sure what the specifics are with the deal between Microsoft and Nintendo. I mean, it’s granted that the Switch will probably never see ports of Gears 5 and Halo 5: Guardians unless the Xbox Game Pass program makes its way to the system – which it might.
But we are getting some great indie darlings in the meantime. Cuphead debuted a few months ago in a nearly flawless port, bringing its debonair presentation and challenging gameplay along for the ride. Now we have Ori and the Blind Forest, Moon Studios’ amazing open-world 2D platformer, which feels right at home on the Switch. In fact, I may even like this version better than the Xbox One adaptation that preceded it.
A bit on the Metroidvania side, but without all the moodiness that weighs down other games, Ori follows the title character as he makes his way through a dangerous forest, attempting to recover three crucial elements to keep the Spirit Tree alive. Along the way, he’ll overcome obstacles, run into enemies, and utilize his energy in a number of creative ways.
The game requires players to make progress in certain sections before they move further, gathering enough stones to unlock doors and gaining new abilities to reach new areas. It’s very progressive – and in some ways, a little bit challenging. But it’s never unfair. Moon Studios has found the right level of balance here, and despite slight frustrations (waterfall, that’s all I’ll say), the journey is well worth it.
Ori’s gameplay feels absolutely precise. Platforming feels second nature, and being able to summon spirit orbs to attack enemies is very cool. What’s more, the game feels equally good either in handheld or TV mode, though it’s best with a Pro Controller. There are more than enough save points to go around, though it can take a bit to regenerate to earlier spots should you bite the dust. It’s worth the wait, though.
Along with excellent controls, Ori also hugely benefits from a fantastic presentation. The graphics look remarkable either in handheld or TV mode, a rare feat for a Switch game. What’s more, it actually looks better than the Xbox One version in some places, if that’s even possible. It runs smoothly at 60 FPS, and the lighting and animation are absolutely stunning. It’s kind of ironic that one of the Switch’s best-looking games manages to outshine the Xbox version. Wild.
And the music. Wow. The soundtrack is absolutely moving throughout, fitting the character to a tee. It’s the kind of music that’ll relax you, even as certain challenges come your way. The sound effects and voiceovers, as gibberish as they might be, are just as impressive. Wear your headphones for this one if you can, or crank the surround system. You won’t be sorry.
That said, Ori and the Blind Forest is essentially a port, so don’t expect that much new stuff. If you beat the game on Xbox One, you won’t find too much new here. But the game’s huge enough and has enough secrets to make it worth digging into again, justifying its affordable price. Besides, if this sells well, there’s always the possibility that Microsoft will give the Switch a port of Moon Studios’ forthcoming sequel Ori and the Will of the Wisps. It’s coming to Xbox One first, but, hey, you never know.
If platforming is your thing, or you just want a game that absolutely, positively makes your Switch shine on the presentation and gameplay fronts, Ori and the Blind Forest is an absolute must-buy. It captures everything that made the Xbox One game work so well, and adds to it by actually making some aspects even better. (Again, that’s wild.) It may not have the best save reload system, and it’s lacking in new content, but what’s here more than justifies adding it to your library.
Kudos, Microsoft. Now, about those Battletoads…