REVIEW / Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas (PC)

 

Owners of iOS devices should be very familiar with the name “Oceanhorn.” The app, Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas (Oceanhorn) dominated the App Store charts as one of the highest-grossing game in 2013. It was even featured as an Editor’s Choice in the App Store’s front page. Android device owners were not so lucky; the game was never slated to port over to the mobile operating system that makes up the majority of the world’s market share.

 

Oceanhorn

 

So what makes a game so successful that it can bypass the dominant share of the mobile market and actually leapfrog over to a PC remastered release? Well, four words: an homage to Zelda. The Finnish developers, Cornfox & Brothers, created a game that could very much pass as an installment or a spinoff of the legendary series. They packed that in a mobile app, and soon the consumers wanted to try it out. The remastered and definitive version of Oceanhorn was released on Steam a few weeks ago. While the original release featured a full 3D Zelda-like gaming experience, the new game includes features not found in the PC release –  gamepad compatibility, sharper resolution, and improved gameplay elements.

 

The adventurer's father goes missing one day and left only his notebook and necklace behind.

The adventurer’s father goes missing one day and left only his notebook and necklace behind.

 

Plot

Oceanhorn takes place in the world of Arcadia, where a young adventurer wakes up to find his father missing. His clues to finding his father are a notebook and a mysterious glowing necklace. The necklace shows him the way to his father’s sword and shield, two items that spark a local hermit to reveal to the adventurer the lore of Arcadia. A millennium ago, a dark lord corrupted three great monsters – Oceanhorn, Sealork, and Evertuso – to conquer the Arcadians. Today, only Oceanhorn remains alive, and it has answers to the whereabouts of the adventurer’s father.

 

Oceanhorn - 5

 

Gameplay

The journey will take the adventurer to Arcadia’s lands, filled with their own dilemmas, caves, monsters, and machines. The adventurer uses a small boat to travel these lands, and he unlocks uncharted territories after finding out about them from other non-playable characters. Traveling the lands can be cumbersome; players are forced to sail the trajectory of the course; there is no way to skip it. Fortunately, to help with the delay, the adventurer is given a gun/cannon to shoot monsters and barrels that bar the way.

The redefined version allows players to use a gamepad to play the game. Controlling the game with the keyboard and mouse is the default, and it responds to inputs well. However, since the camera is locked to a top-down angled view, sometimes the directional controls can get choppy, especially when moving diagonally.

 

Moving diagonally can sometimes be a little tricky to maneuver.

Moving diagonally can sometimes be a little tricky to maneuver.

 

Someone who has played any of the N64/Wii/3DS Zelda game will recognize the four-button system on the upper top-right hand of the game screen. These represent the adventurer’s equipped weapon, shield, magic, and the actions he can take next to an object. While the inputs for attacking, blocking, and casting magic are good, the actions are not. The actions the adventurer can do to an object varies, but all interactions are done with the space bar. One little mishap that happens with the action button is when the adventurer is lifting something, he can either throw or drop it depending on whether he is moving or not. The action button wigs out a little between changing from a throw to a drop command, and it gets a little frustrating when the adventurer does not want to break, lose, or delicately place an item in a certain area.

Combat in the game is particularly reminiscent of Zelda games. The adventurer’s default weapon, the sword, is swung with a click of the mouse. Holding the mouse for a few seconds unleashes a “secret move,” a full 360-degree swing. The adventurer will utilize a number of different weapons such as a bow and bombs, which are used to solve puzzles.

 

Solving puzzles in a cave sometimes require the hunt for a key.

Solving puzzles in a cave sometimes require the hunt for a key.

 

Puzzles are prominent all over Arcadia. In order to progress through the game, the adventurer must solve puzzles within a cave in order to get to the next boss and obtain that important item needed to open up another area. The puzzles are easy to moderate to solve. Most consist of finding keys to open up gates to solving a block puzzle to access an area.

Oceanhorn also features a level system, where the adventurer’s statistics gets certain boosts after earning experience and gaining levels. Experience is earned in a number of ways, the traditional dispatch of monsters and completing certain challenges. Challenges are tasks ranging from the mundane, such as collecting coins and reading signs to moderately difficult, such as solving puzzles and defeating bosses. Fortunately, the experience earned from challenges is substantial enough to gain a level or two no matter what the task is.

 

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Design

Since it pays homage to a Zelda game, Oceanhorn’s design definitely feels like a Zelda game. The sea, buildings, and even the bushes have that Zelda oomph to them. The addition of more pixels and polygons really gives the game nice visuals with even the medium settings for resolution. The game really looks good whether it is played in a low-spec or a high-spec computer.

 

To Buy or Not to Buy?

Oceanhorn is a great game for adventure enthusiasts, and especially Zelda fanatics who have played the latest editions of the beloved series. They will particularly enjoy a nostalgic feeling journeying across Arcadia. However, for those who are just thinking about trying it out and own an iOS device, it might be better to do so by purchasing the app. The lower price difference of the app will still give them the chance to enjoy the story and depth of the game.

 

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