Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time…
In the months running up to the release of Ori And The Will Of The Wisps last year, I was gripped by an irrational fear. I’d loved Moon Studio’s first Ori adventure, Ori And The Blind Forest, with a fierce and fiery passion. Even now, I still love the bits everyone hates, from its ineffectual combat to its heinous boss escape sequences. But as news struck that its sequel would be taking a slightly different approach to its Metroid-like structure, favouring branching, almost Zelda-style hub worlds, and ditching its unique save system, I was worried that Will Of The Wisps might end up losing what had made Blind Forest such a special game for me. As I said, the fear was irrational, as Will Of The Wisps wasn’t just better than Blind Forest; it was probably about as perfect a sequel as I could have possibly hoped for.
A large part of that’s down to Ori’s new arsenal of weapons and power-ups. Actually, I tell a lie. There’s one spirit weapon in particular that’s just hands down the absolute best of the best, and that’s Ori’s whacking great hammer, Spirit Smash. Honestly, there’s simply no need for anything else when you’ve got the might and majesty of Ori’s hammer beneath your fingertips, and it’s probably one of the most satisfying game weapons to have ever existed.
It helps, of course, that Ori themselves continues to be one of the most effortless and tactile creations in the history of video games, and they remain as wonderful to control as they were in Blind Forest. It’s such a joy to bounce, hop and skip through Moon Studio’s gorgeous hand-painted environments when you’re as lithe and acrobatic as Ori is, and it makes Will Of The Wisps’ beefed up combat chops even more satisfying under the thumbs as a result. Whereas Blind Forest cast you as a small, lonely and frightened creature back in 2015, there’s a real confidence to Will Of The Wisps that really makes you feel like Ori’s at the height of their powers here.
The shift to more dedicated, themed locations also lets Moon Studios really go to town with some of their design ideas. Free from the constraints of creating one cohesive forest world, Will Of The Wisps pushes Ori’s platforming abilities to new heights – literally, in the case of the frosty, snow-capped mountain region, but also in their joyful inventiveness. I didn’t think Moon Studios could top Ori’s Bash attack from Blind Forest, which lets Ori launch themselves off incoming projectiles to both return enemy fire and cross otherwise impossible chasms, but the way it now dovetails with all the other new abilities they’ve added to Ori’s skillset, from the unstoppable Burrow to the zippy Grapple, is probably the purest form of delight there is in the entire action platformer genre. Man alive, I just love it so much.
And I haven’t even mentioned Gareth Coker’s beautiful score for it yet, either! Listen, I won’t gush any further. I will simply leave you with this absolute heartwrencher:
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Now go and play Ori And The Will Of The Wisps, goddamnit.