Full Disclosure – Review code provided by Five12 Games.
Orn: The Tiny Forest Sprite is a game, unsurprisingly, about a tiny forest sprite called Orn. Orn is tasked by the Ancients to defeat a terrible evil known as Nalu – a great and terrible beast who has engulfed the land in darkness. It is down to our teeny hero to hop, skip and jump through various locales, gathering tid bits here and there in order to bring light to the world once more.
It is a shame then, that I would much rather this world remained in darkness, because Orn is not a good time. This is for a number of reasons, one of which being the fact it feels awful to play thanks to terrible controls. One would imagine you would be able to jump in a platformer without any additional inputs beyond pressing the designated ‘jump’ button. In Orn, you need to press a completely different button to fill up a bar that allows you to jump. Once your bar is depleted, you need to fill it up again. Just sit there, and tap that button a few more times for no reason. I don’t understand why this is a thing. Why can’t I just jump? This mechanic adds nothing but a couple seconds of irritation to a normally mindless process.
Of course, once you attain your brief period of levitation, a few more things become apparent. Namely you have pretty much no control over Orn. Jumping feels incredibly floaty, yet you have very limited midair control. I found myself over and under shooting jumps constantly. I actually died more times in the tutorial, than I have died during entire playthroughs of other platformers. This is made worse by the painfully janky hit boxes. Jumping over enemies was a nightmare from beginning to end, as I was dying to what I can only assume was a nefariously vindictive shadow. I gleaned no enjoyment from the platforming – instead feeling a fairly consistent level rage.
Orn does at least try to mix things up in an attempt to distract from the awful platforming. As you progress you will gain new stances, each one granting Orn new abilities and ways to interact with the environment. Once allows you to kill enemies and sprint, another will freeze fiery platforms and give you control over the flow of time etc. These additions are flawed in execution, for example you have to press sprint every time you jump, which makes platforming even more finicky, but they are certainly an interesting addition. The only enjoyment that I had when Orn, was when I managed to get into into a pseudo-groove and pulled off some unintentionally flashy stance swapping platforming. It is a real shame the game surrounding these mechanics is borderline unplayable, because these could have been fun to mess around with.
This mixed bag approach also seeped into the visuals. The developers went for a classic Japanese art kind of look, similar to Clover’s classic – Okami. Stylistically, it can look nice; adequately portraying the dark, dreary world you now inhabit. From a purely technical standpoint however, it does look very dated. Blurry textures, enemies and objects clash in the most disturbingly jarring ways. In many places the game looks flat out ugly. I would even go as far as saying unfinished.
The sound design is equally mixed. Voice acting is present and accounted for, but is well below average. I got the feeling the actors were doing impressions of popular characters, specifically Smaug, which makes the semi-serious story comical. The soundtrack is very soft, often sticking to the background with light pianos building a sense of ambience. It is very nice, but doesn’t exactly save the game. I would go as far as saying it was wasted here.
Thankfully Orn is mercifully brief, as it only has five levels; not that I would recommend people pick the game up. What few redeeming qualities this game has, are far outweighed by some questionable mechanics, terrible controls and rage inducing hit boxes.
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