It's short, it's got a nice double jump. 3 stars, good outing. That's a nice score, right? Fair?

… now drag him.

There's going to be some mechanical spoilers ahead, maybe a mild story peek. Worried about that? Go play the game. It's free, takes an hour. I'll wait.

Right. Somebody really, really likes the Ori games. Good taste! Good games. Well, the first one. And not the Definitive Edition, that one ruins the balance. And I'm not really sure about the second, I haven't played it. But I know a guy who knows a guy that worked on them, and I like the former of those guys, so I'll take it on good faith.

The thing about Ori is its breadth and temerity. It's a wide game. Lots of secrets to discover, ways to move, terrain to traverse. Movement is polished, fluid. Everything has a lovely watercolor look to it that gives it a natural warmth. Lush orchestral sweeps occasionally punctuate major story moments. Solid, coherent, full of subtle design motifs that quietly tie it all together. And, importantly: it has the courage to challenge the player. Not that much, mind, but consequences make mastery meaningful, and Ori brings them.

Sheepy does not. Sheepy is a Thomas Kincaid fan looking at Ori and wanting to do the same. Nothing wrong with that, inspiration and imitation are the cornerstones of art. But the mark is missed. An overreliance on colored lighting to bring warmth, literally signposted secrets that are desperate to be discovered, the standard movement upgrades of double jump and dash and the final super traversal move, all thrown in quick succession before any real exploration or challenge can be laid out. And the latter two of those do not work properly - or at all - with the D-pad, despite the game letting you control the titular character with the same with no complaint otherwise.

How about the sound? The music is grand, sweeping yet pallid. The reverbating swell when a large new area is met, the piano in minor key throughout, the breathless, freedom-espousing sprint that accompanies an utterly toothless and far too long sprint. It's well done, no doubt. But it's uninspired, rote, far too self-aware and far too eager to be heard.

And the combat. Three of those, one hit kills for young Sheepy, dramatic setups so out of place the eyes can't help but roll. And when you die - swiftly - you'll quickly run into the fact that you'll be watching those lengthy cutscene setups again. Mash some buttons, try to skip. "Hold Y to skip"? Lies. Hold Y to fast-forward, complete with audio distortion. The final battle doesn't even have the teeth to resist giving the player multiple checkpoints to complete its internal logic-defying completion steps.

There's a story here, rather vague, rather pointless. I read all the notes, listened to all the tapes. It has nothing to say, and ends in a vague, embarrassing pile. A shining example of tell, don't show.

As a result the entire affair absolutely screams capstone project, the final final of some game design college, a game drenched in amateur polish and carrying a backpack full of the inspirations that drove its creators to enroll in the first place.

But hey, it's free. 3 stars.

Reviewed on Jun 03, 2024