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REVIEW / Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas (PS4)

 

Ever since Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas hit iOS devices a couple of years ago, I’ve kept my eye on the game. The comparisons to The Legend of Zelda and what looks to be a page torn out of the storybook adventure of The Wind Waker were incredibly enticing, but I just didn’t want to play it on my iPhone (the little screen and all). By the time I got an iPad, I had completely forgotten about Oceanhorn.

Flash forward to 2015. Oceanhorn hits Steam. Ears perked up, but I didn’t bite. I was too wrapped up in Dragon Age: Inquisition to pay attention at the time, then The Witcher 3 and then Fallout 4. It seems Oceanhorn fell off the radar once again. Luckily, Albert Eres from TVGB reviewed the game for Steam, which you can read here. Now it’s 2016 and Oceanhorn, recently ported to Mac OSX, just recently hit Xbox One and PS4 in September. I decided it was time to take a crack at the game that has been making its way from mobile to console.

 

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Oceanhorn is an action-adventure game from developer Cornfox & Brothers and published by IDG Entertainment. Since we’ve reviewed the Steam version of the game, I’ll provide a TL;DR synopsis of the games plot: a young adventurer’s father wanders off to defeat the last remaining evil monster that plagues the world of Arcadia, and as he tracks down his father, he learns more about origins of such evil and more about his father.

The gameplay of Oceanhorn is Zelda to the core – puzzles are scattered throughout dungeons filled with new weapons, master keys, and boss battles. If you’ve played any of the Zelda games, you’ll begin falling into the pattern of recognizing areas where you’ll need a bomb to blow through a wall or shoot an obvious target with an arrow from your bow. However, because the game was built originally for mobile devices, these dungeons didn’t feel like huge time commitments and you can pick up and progress quickly in a half hour (if not beat the level).

 

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Combat felt clunky. Enemies are scattered throughout the over world and dungeons, most of which are easily vanquished. There are some challenges when you are swarmed with a group of mobs, and flying enemies can be a pain to kill if you’re moving between elevations in the terrain (and questionable hit boxes). Bosses are fun puzzle battles unto themselves and are the only real time I felt challenged in combat. Each boss battle is full of Zelda tropes as well (ie. throw bomb in open moth), so veterans will figure out weaknesses quickly.

It was interesting to level up in a game like this and each level unlocks an additional perk to your character like an increase in bombs you can carry or arrows quivered. Each island has sub-achievements that can make exploring the area more engaging to accomplish these smaller tasks. It solves the necessity to collect lots of money to spend on item upgrades, and adds a layer of progression that rewards the player.

 

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Graphically, the game evokes the charm of Wind Waker with the simplicity of a 3DS Zelda game. Environments are colorful and character models are quirky, adding into that charm factor. I really enjoyed the soundtrack – the enchanting music played well against the Arcadian landscapes. The voice over work had some hits and misses, and the sound effects were nothing to be excited about. It is a port after all.

Okay, so it’s easy to compare the game to a Zelda game, but “imitation is the best form of flattery”. So if there is a game or game-style to imitate, you may as well choose one of the best. And it works for Oceanhorn, but it will always draw comparisons.

 

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All in all, this game will scratch your Zelda itch and I see why it was such a great mobile game. But I beat Zelda games multiple times out of wanting to replay it. Oceanhorn lacks that depth, and what works for mobile doesn’t always translate up the food chain.

 

 

 

Review based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.

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