Review – Orn: The Tiny Forest Sprite (Switch)

Orn: The Tiny Forest Sprite had me really excited when I first saw the trailer. It looked like a blending of Okami and Ori and the Blind Forest, two of my all time favorite games. A hand drawn Japanese art style like Okami, with the forested 2D platforming gameplay like Ori. Well, looks can be deceiving, a lesson I learned the hard way with Orn: The Tiny Forest Sprite.

The story in Orn: The Tiny Forest Sprite is simple and typical. A dark lord named Nalu is threatening to devour all the light from the world and cover it in darkness. Orn, as the title of the game suggests, is a forest sprite who is sent out to collect some crystal shards to help him seal away Nalu forever. That’s it. That’s the extent of the story. It’s as shallow as a puddle. I was hoping to learn more about this world and of our hero, but this is seriously all there is.

Orn: The Tiny Forest Sprite

This is about as much story as you get.

The gameplay in Orn: The Tiny Forest Sprite is maddening. The jumping mechanics are unreliable at best. This game also features one of the most questionable choices I’ve ever seen in a game: a meter that depletes every time you jump. At the start, you collect a fruit that gives you a magical meter that you will have to keep full if you want to jump or perform any of your other abilities. This would make sense if you had to collect other fruits along the way to keep the meter full, but there aren’t any aside from that very first one. This means you have to constantly mash the Y button to keep your meter filled with enough energy to allow you to do anything. It’s annoying and makes no sense whatsoever.

Orn: The Tiny Forest Sprite

Look! It’s a Piranha Plant! Is Mario around?

There are three runes that you will have to find along your journey: the Terra rune, the Frost rune, and the Darkroot rune. The Terra rune grants you the ability to make earthy platforms appear, dash, and make plant enemies decay. The Frost rune helps you get past certain firey obstacles and lets you warp (kind of). The Darkroot rune allows you to phase through specific hollow barriers. These are cool in theory, but the dashing and warping abilities are just as unreliable as the jumping mechanics and both the Frost and Darkroot runes will kill you if you use them for too long.

Luckily, there are respawning stones spread throughout the levels. They are few and far between, and are usually only located after a particularly tough section of the level. Since there is so much difficulty in making successful jumps, you’ll have to repeat the same stretch of the levels over and over again just to get to that next one. Plus, whenever you die your energy meter is depleted so you’ll have to mash the button to refill it so you can attempt to progress further. This completely interrupts the flow of the game. It’s bad enough that the platforming is so poorly designed, but having to stop to refill a completely pointless and nonsensical meter is absurd.

Orn: The Tiny Forest Sprite

These are all the levels you have to choose from. That’s it.

On top of the funky controls, the environment also poses a problem at times. Now don’t get me wrong, I really like the hand drawn Japanese art style of Orn: The Tiny Forest Sprite. The graphics aren’t terribly mind blowing, but it’s cute, vibrant, and visually pleasing for the most part. However, this is a 2D platformer and there are a lot of things in the foreground that are either highly distracting or downright obstructing. Running behind lava falls will take up a large portion of the screen and hide upcoming enemies until it’s too late to keep from running into them. Then there are certain areas where platforms are concealed by a tall patch of grass or mushroom in the foreground, so you’ll have to perform leaps of faith to try to get to where you need to go. It’s really poor level design.

Orn: The Tiny Forest Sprite

Believe it or not, there are platforms to cross behind this tall patch of grass.

The music throughout Orn: The Tiny Forest Sprite is pretty decent and fits the game well. My one gripe with this is that every time you die (which is often), the music resets, meaning you’ll be listening to the same part of the song over and over again. There is only one character with any spoken dialogue and that is the Guardian Tree. His delivery is ridiculously over the top and borderline obnoxious. Thankfully, you don’t have to listen to him much.

I have to say that I am really disheartened that Orn: The Tiny Forest Sprite didn’t turn out to be as good as the trailers made it seem. It has a lot of good ideas, but largely fail in their execution. On top of the frustrating controls and nearly nonexistent story, this game has only three main levels and two sub levels. Not accounting for deaths, main level takes about fifteen minutes to beat and the sub levels take about five. That means that this game is really only about an hour long. With no unlockables or collectables, there isn’t any sort of replay value. It isn’t a terribly expensive game, but it’s still not worth the $8.99 price tag for an hour of pure irritation.

 

Graphics: 7.0

While the graphics themselves aren’t the most advanced, the hand drawn cell-shaded art style is really nice. Some of the foreground is distracting, though.

Gameplay: 3.0

The controls are really janky and lead to frequent deaths. The jumping often doesn’t work as desired, nor do the different abilities. Having to constantly mash a button to be able to jump is ridiculous.

Sound: 4.5

There is only one voice actor, that of the Guardian Tree, and he’s too over the top with his delivery. The music is nice, but resets every time you die, which is often.

Fun Factor: 2.0

There are some good ideas in here, but they fail in their execution. The story is shallow, the controls are aggravating, and the game is incredibly short.

Final Verdict: 3.5

Orn: The Tiny Forest Sprite is available now on PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Orn: The Tiny Forest Sprite was provided by the publisher.