Developed by: Comfox & Bros Published by: FDG Entertainment Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (also available on Xbox One, Steam, iOS, and OS X)
One of the first thing you’ll notice is that Oceanhorn Monster of Uncharted Seas’ aesthetics and world resembles The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker but without the epic storyline, tight controls, third person camera view, fun exploration, and challenging puzzle solving. This formula has worked for the Zelda franchise, which has adaptedto new Nintendo platform features such as motion controls or touch screen controls. These new innovations kept true to what makes Zelda games great while keeping it fresh for 30 years. Oceanhorn isn’t the first to try and imitate Zelda formula. This is no easy feat with Zelda being very ambitious series that shines brightest in the gameplay department, especially when it comes to innovative puzzles and unique items. Oceanhorn sails more towards a more simplistic approach while not really offering anything special or unique to make it stand apart on its own other than being a Zelda clone.
Oceanhorn is a action adventure game that was first released as a mobile game on iOS back in November 2013 and since then has been ported to Windows, OS X, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. The game was originally designed with touch screen controls in mind. I’m not a fan of virtual control pads on mobile devices, but due to the scale and simplicity of the game I can see it working better for mobile platform versus console experiences. It doesn’t excuse the fact that the game has issues whether it’s on mobile or console. It’s flaws can’t be ignored and the transition from touch screen to console controller are clunky but bearable at best.
Starting off you play as a mute boy protagonist looking for his missing father while discovering the truth of the link between his disappearance and the beast Oceanhorn. You’ll be sent on a quest to retrieve three relics connected to gods that’ll help you defeat Oceanhorn. From there you will be sent on quests to find relics, traveling to island throughout the world of Arcadia much like in The Wind Waker . After visiting the first few islands, you can discover hidden island by talking to villagers and finding bottles with messages in them on beaches.
Once you leave your home island a map of the Arcadia Islands is used to navigate. You can only select which island you want to go to and it will automatically sail you to that island. Eventually the process of traveling between islands become dull. Most of the game’s camera angle are isometric, with the island landscapes blocking your view at times, making it easy to miss collectibles. It can be a challenge to navigate the islands and caves due to this. As you find the relics, you’ll acquire new items and abilities. You’ll start off with a stick and eventually get a sword and shield. Combat in the game feel clunky at first and you’ll often swing at enemies and hit nothing but air. Once you get a feel for the mechanics it becomes bearable. You’ll have a spin attack at your disposal and later will be able to pick up bombs, arrows, and spells such as Fire Ice and Focus powers. Bombs will be used to unearth hidden chests and areas that aren’t reachable without them. A majority of the time the chests just contain more bombs or arrows that you can easily obtain by breaking pots or defeating monster; this makes finding these hidden chests unsatisfying.
It isn’t all bad new with Oceanhorn. There are three thing that stands out the most to me. One is the soundtrack. The music was composed by Kenji Ito and Nobuo Uemastu, who is most know from his work on the Final Fantasy series. Another positive are the graphics. It’s a gorgeous game to behold while exploring and traveling the ocean of the world. Lastly is the voice acting. Even though there isn’t much and the lip syncing is off, the voice tracks sound great. Oceanhorn has the potential to turn it around with its planned sequel, Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm…especially if tailored more towards a quality console experience over a simple mobile experience. If you want to have a Zelda like adventure but don’t own a Nintendo console, this game is passable and is as close as you’ll get at the moment.