As the music swells at the opening of Ori and the Will of the Wisps, a lump forms in my throat. This isn’t because I’ve longed for Microsoft games to make the jump to Nintendo consoles – admittedly a portable Gears of War would be pretty great – it’s because Ori and the Will of the Wisps is one of the most emotionally affecting games of the year. Now, a mere six months after its initial release, it’s made its way to the Nintendo Switch so you can experience it pretty much anywhere you go.
It’s hard to put into words how completely this game has melted into my heart – I’ve already tried once for our original review. It is beautiful, within and without, with the visuals evoking timeless paintings of long-forgotten landscapes while the music reaches down into your soul and dredges up your pain, your wonder and your joy. Will of the Wisps storytelling is touching and emotionally mature, and in the same vein as the opening to Pixar’s Up will have you reaching for the hankies without a word having ever been spoken.
For the uninitiated, Ori is a spirit creature, and Will of the Wisps continues her story in the wake of the events of The Blind Forest. Niwen is a world of magic and majesty, taking in leafy, verdant forests, dank underground kingdoms and the frozen climes of the mountainous regions to the east. Wrestling this artfulness into a compelling game saw Moon Studio turn to the classic Metroidvania formula, and Ori’s ever-expanding range of platforming abilities steadily unlocks more of this incredible world as you progress.
The move to Switch has precipitated a few necessary changes to the game’s graphical output, and chief among them is the move to 1080p when docked, and 720p when undocked. Losing the crystal-clear 4K image from Xbox One X (or a gaming PC) may hurt some of the most ardent resolution-o-philes, but Will of the Wisps’ art style is so strong that it makes next to no difference in action.
The game’s visual language is still perfectly clear enough to tell you where you need to go, and how you can get there – or more likely that you can’t get there until you’ve unlocked some new ability. There is similarly a reduction in anti-aliasing, resulting in some rougher edges, mainly where a character might move against a static background, but once you’re in Ori’s flow you won’t have time to notice, and nor will you care.
This is a game that relies on drawing you into its reality, where your fingers and thumbs become a crucial component in Ori’s quest to save their adoptive brother Ku. It loses none of the impact and weight that it carried on Xbox One, and playing on handheld is a wonderful way to feel even closer to the game’s events. Pop a pair of headphones on and you can treat Will of the Wisps like a good book, curling up with it as you sink into a sumptuous audio-visual eiderdown.
That implies that it’s comfortable, perhaps even, that it’s a walkover. While there is an Easy mode that’s going to let you experience the story without too much friction, the Normal mode is a resolute challenge that relies on careful timing, exceptional reactions, and a clear understanding of routes and pathways through the labyrinthine world. There are times where you might become frustrated, particularly against the spectacular boss creatures, but you have to believe me; this is a game you must see through to the end.