Ori and the Will of the Wisps Review

Games

Unfortunately, one of Ori and the Blind Forest’s best quirks is missing from the sequel. Ori’s ability to save anywhere, once a selling point, is now gone—and why shouldn’t it be? In the last five years, games have mostly shed any emphasis on manual saves, either doing it automatically as Will of the Wisps does or living always online. The loss doesn’t change the rhythm of strategizing to face some of the game’s many puzzles or bosses, which still feel fun and fresh, despite being hurt by technical issues.

Release Date: March 11, 2020
Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PC
Developer: Moon Studios
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Genre: Metroidvania

I’m almost thankful to the bugs for allowing me to get good use out of the staggered save files, which let you drop back into the minutes before you fell through a wall or realized you’d walked the wrong way. The combat is so well-calibrated, the windows of opportunity so perfectly sized, that it’s especially frustrating when you know something is chugging by milliseconds. Boss battles were more of a problem, with frequent crashes and broken effects. Coming in at the end of a console generation makes some of this inevitable, with developers forced to work in anticipation of customers playing on a wide variety of machines.

The level design is usually delightful. Ori and his bioluminescent world feel more alive than ever, mushrooms and trees moving in the wind. Enemies are bigger and they interact with the environment like forces of nature. Ori is a tiny spark in comparison, but the animation and feel of attacks make it perfectly plausible that you’re staggering these hulks. I particularly enjoyed a musical puzzle that changed up the usual rhythm of the game by asking you to play a song. The Midnight Burrows section also introduces some pleasant teleport puzzles that reminded me of Portal.

At their best, the puzzles are an utter joy to solve. It’s play in the generic sense: imaginative, curious. I want to explore every corner, to feel the reward of discovering what prize I can grab behind every candy-colored puzzle. This is the uncomplicated joy of video games: problem-solving in a beautiful and entertaining world. I found myself looking forward to classic elements instead of worrying about whether they were repetitive. There’s even a desert level!  

In other sections, the difficulty feels forced. Especially toward the later areas, obstacles feel less like intricate puzzles and more like walls placed in the way to keep you from using your late-game abilities in interesting combos. In the Baur’s Reach section in particular, the carnivorous plants felt less like a fun new mechanic and more like an arbitrary barrier. The long set-piece chases start out visually inventive, then become essentially a game of pinball that leave you trying to find the sequence of moves that will let you fly through the area.

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