(Pocket-lint) - With PlayStation 4 exclusive The Order: 1886 about to hit the streets, Microsoft needs something to counter its impact and that something could well be Ori and the Blind Forest - a game as far removed from Sony's boys-own adventure as you can get.
Ori is out on 11 March for the Xbox One (the version we played) and PC with an Xbox 360 version touted for later this year. And from what we've played so far it ably competes with Sony's triple-A title even though it is a very different proposition.
For a start it will be available as a downloadable game and for $19.99 in the States (final UK price yet to be revealed). And rather than being a showcase for the latest generation of consoles in terms of detailed graphical rendering it is a 2D platformer that harks back to a more innocent time for videogaming.
That doesn't mean it isn't as graphically impressive in its own way though. Indeed, Ori and the Blind Forest is the most stunning looking 2D platform game we've clapped eyes on. Its cinematic soundtrack is beautiful too, having been recorded by the National Symphony Orchestra in Nashville, and it perfectly complements the gameplay - at least in the preview sections we've worked our way through so far.
The latest of which was a level set called "Forlorn Ruins" which appears around halfway through the game and gives a very good impression of the variety of styles and puzzles throughout, plus the skill sets required to complete them.
Ori and the Blind Forest is a rare sort of platform game that is as inventive as it is charming. As the game progresses, you gain new abilities to accomplish new feats and as each ability adds something new for a player to learn, the levels get fiendishly tough to navigate towards the end.
That's why being plonked into the middle of the game without the benefit of learning each required ability as it is introduced is a tough task. It is not insurmountable though, and we have to say that although trial and error had to be employed during our preview session, it was highly rewarding and showed exactly how hardcore Ori can be. It might look cute, but this is an old school 2D platform title at heart.
The Forlorn Ruins level focuses a lot on gravity, with the new gameplay elements that are introduced at this stage relying on the ability to adapt to new control methods - specifically in direction terms. Ori is tasked with picking up a ball (a Light Vessel) that allows the wee character to walk on platforms covered with a glowing energy. These then enable the main protagonist to defy gravity and walk on walls and the ceiling. But when the Light Vessel is dropped, gravity is restored again and Ori plummets to the earth (safely).
Not only does this introduce some cunning puzzles where you have to leap from platform to platform, altering the gravitational pull as you go, but the controls reverse when you are upside down, making you constantly think when leaping over spikes or enemy fire.
Thankfully by this section, your character should have plenty of Soul Flame energy to place save points (where you will regenerate when you die) and if there is any advice we can give at this stage is that you need to save often.
We've also played two other levels in the past, the fast-paced Ginso Tree, which requires constant movement, and the beginning section, the Sunken Glades, which teaches the basics of the game, and each feels suitably different in style if not look. The three parts we've played at preview level certainly gave us the impression that Moon Studios' Ori and the Blind Forest will be a vast and addictive journey and one we cannot wait to undertake in the near future.