A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a side-scrolling action game for Xbox One starring a forest spirit who adventures to protect and save the woodlands and the creatures within it. The story carries a strong environmental message, with its adorable hero working to fight off an invasive evil. He does battle with corrupted creatures -- such as slimes and bugs -- but the combat's quick and cartoonish with no blood, and it's not the sole focus of the experience. Players spend most of their time exploring, running and jumping through the world as they accomplish various tasks to progress the story and help forest dwellers in need. It can sometimes be a bit challenging to find your way around the game's large map and figure out what to do next, but persistence results in a sense of satisfaction and reward.
What's it about?
ORI AND THE WILL OF THE WISPS -- a sequel to the beloved, award-winning side-scrolling action game Ori and the Blind Forest -- continues the story of Ori, a forest spirit dedicated to protecting the woodlands and its inhabitants and helping creatures in need. It picks up right after the first game ended, with an owl, Ku, emerging from a rescued egg. Ori and Ku become friends, and take to the sky together on a grand flight before a storm sends them spinning to the ground, separated. When Ori wakes up, he begins exploring his surroundings, where he meets a new cast of characters and friends who inform him that the local forest has become susceptible to corruption and decay and must be protected by tracking down four wisps to reform a caring shield in the shape of the great Willow Spirit. The action's similar to that of the first game, with players travelling left and right, up and down to explore the woods while defending against corrupted creatures with spirit sword swipes and magical attacks. Ori can run, jump, and perform graceful acrobatics, but he encounters plenty of barriers that can only be bypassed by acquiring specific traversal abilities, such as climbing walls and dashing through the air. As the game progresses, he also gradually grows more powerful, gaining new types of attacks, all the better to take on the evil forces permeating the woods.
Is it any good?
There was little wrong with the original Ori and the Blind Forest, and the sequel opts simply to enhance the various elements that made that game so fun and memorable. Ori and the Will of the Wisps recaptures its predecessor's extraordinary sense of power and freedom in movement, making even complex traversal moves feel simple and satisfying once you get a good sense for how they work. It naturally adds to Ori's repertoire of abilities, especially when it comes to fighting corrupted enemies. His ability to stay airborne mid-attack has been boosted, meaning you can perform incredible bashes, dashes, and double-jumps while taking on bosses and groups of enemies. His new array of weapons and skills -- including a fun fire attack that covers a set area -- are designed to be used strategically against specific enemies and at certain times. You'll earn new abilities at a rapid clip, but not so fast that you don't have a chance to master them. And if you do need a little more practice, you can always just re-explore previously visited areas for fun to see if there are any newly unlocked areas you can access.
The combat's fun, but so is simply exploring the lushly drawn colorful natural world, which feels alive and dynamic thanks to Ori's ability to alter it to reach new areas, such as controlling water levels with levers. It's big enough that you're bound to feel lost from time to time, especially at the start, but the in-game map is well designed and highly useful. It's a terrific complement to the story's emotional, environment-focused themes, and does fine work in helping us care about not just becoming skilled players, but also the characters and their predicaments. The occasional mild technical issue lightly mars the experience -- such as a few hitches in the framerate that resulted in missed button taps here and there -- but this seems a small blemish on an otherwise wonderfully entertaining and fulfilling gaming experience. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is side-scrolling gaming at its best.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about using media to teach empathy. Ori and the Will of the Wisp tries hard to rouse feelings of sympathy for the creatures of the forest -- especially the owl Ku -- within the player, but does playing the game make you think more about the plight of our environment and the animals within it?
How might the world and our society change if everyone began seriously considering the effects of their everyday actions on the rest of the population and the environment?
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