Seeing the likes of some of Xbox’s finest games of recent years in the form of Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition or Cuphead come over to Nintendo Switch has been nothing short of incredible. Games that as someone who doesn’t own an Xbox console nor a very good PC thought would be limited to the likes of watching videos rather than getting to play them for myself. Of course, as soon as end credits rolled on Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition my attention soon shifted toward Ori and the Will of the Wisps and wishes of a Switch version, a wish that would soon be granted only five months after its original release.
Pure and simple, this game is wonderful. You once again take on the role of guardian spirit Ori who after being split from its friend Ku during a storm, sets out to save him. Without giving away too much, let’s just say one thing leads to another and before you know it, Ori is tasked with restoring light back to the forest of Niwen. This initial setup may not be anything too surprising, but the way it’s told through the game’s beautifully animated characters and emotionally striking soundtrack help make each moment land with impact and by end credits may even leave you shedding a tear.
Much like Ori and the Blind Forest, the sequel is another exceptionally strong example of the Metroidvania genre. In expected fashion you’re venturing around a sprawling world split into environmentally unique sections, unlocking new abilities and taking on a multitude of puzzles and enemies along the way. While some of these abilities will be familiar to players of the original, you’ll also find some new and equally interesting ones here too like the burrow ability which allows Ori to speedily dig through softer sand blasting out the surface like a dolphin out of water. Bash is perhaps my favourite of the whole bunch though, the game entering a state of pause as you use an enemy or projectile to shoot Ori off from. As you can imagine this ability lends itself to some rather challenging and creative platforming puzzles. Throughout the ten-or-so-hour runtime, it constantly feels like you’re discovering something new and even when it does take a knee between its particularly troublesome platforming sections, enemy encounters or hair-raising chase sequences, it offers a chance to take in the truly stunning world Moon Studios has created. A welcome change for the sequel too is the addition of an auto-save function – eliminating some of the frustrations experienced with the original’s checkpoint system.
As great as Ori and the Blind Forest was, its combat was an area that didn’t feel as engaging as the other gameplay mechanics surrounding it. Thankfully, this is something its sequel has acknowledged and improved on largely thanks to a better mix of combat options that all prove fun to use. Your sword-like starting weapon soon expands to include the Spirit Arc – a bow and arrow style attack – the slower hammer-like Spirit Smash and more with some of these able to be upgraded with additional effects like explosions or fire damage. Compared to the orb used in the original game, combat here feels more engaging and offers more variety especially with a larger cast of enemies to deal with too.
Spirit shards meanwhile give Ori a further edge over its enemies with everything from its attack power to the firing rate of the Sprit Arc to making it easier to decipher secret areas in the world affected. These shards are scattered about Niwen and encourage exploration since even the lesser impactful are worth hunting down.
What sets Ori and the Will of the Wisps apart from the crowd most of all in my opinion though, is in its movement. Ori is a fast little critter able to dash and leap about with amazing pace that never leaves you feeling like you’re not in control. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Its agility and slowly growing line-up of abilities gel together so smoothly and will have you performing amazing gymnastic feats with ease. As much as I love grapple beaming across chasms as Samus, her movements feel sluggish in comparison to Ori who moves with such an energetic and exciting rhythm.
As far as bringing over this Xbox One beauty to Switch goes, it’s hard to point to anything truly bad. Just like the original, the game’s world is easily one of the most interesting and visually stunning I’ve explored of any Metroidvania in recent memory. The attention to detail in every area is truly eye-catching. Marry this with an equally beautiful and poignant soundtrack and you have an adventure that’s as much a delight to play as it is to simply watch and listen to. While handheld worked perfectly well, this is definitely a game you’ll want to experience on the big screen.
While the Nintendo Switch has seen its fair share of Metroidvania titles over its four-year run, Ori and the Will of the Wisps stands strong as one of its best. While the original was already a memorable adventure, Ori and the Will of the Wisps manages to make improvements whilst dazzling with a visual look that somehow manages to be even more eye-catching than before.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by iam8bit