Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas originally launched on iOS November 14, 2013. It later got ported to the PC in 2015 and earlier to this year back in May on Mac. This version marks Oceanhorn’s debut on consoles. This review is based on the PS4 release, but it’s also on Xbox One. With all that out of thee way let’s get started.
The game takes place in a devastated world after three titans ruined the land, forcing the survivors to live out life on a scattered set of islands. Our hero’s father disappears one stormy night when he tries to face off against the last titan, Oceanhorn. After he disappears it’s now your task to restore peace by collecting three sacred medallions to vanquish Oceanhorn once and for all. It’s a fairly basic setup that is devoid of emotion mainly because the protagonist is not only silent, but also nameless. Plus his supporting cast lacks any sort of pizazz as well. It’s not so much bad as it is just minimal context for the gameplay.
Gameplay is like a cross between The Wind Waker and A Link Between Worlds. It has the sprawling ocean and island set pieces of TWW with the semi 3D top-down perspective of ALBW. Our hero is armed with a shield, which can block and deflect attacks, and a sword that, well, cuts stuff. There’s a stamina gauge that depletes after blocking, swimming long distances, using sword techniques, and dashing just to name a few things. Your health is determined by a set of hearts, go figure, and there’s a mana gauge, which depletes after spell casts like summoning fire. Then of course there are the sub-weapons like the bombs and bow that have a set amount one can hold until upgraded through leveling.
Experience can be gathered by defeating foes, but it’s mostly earned through an in game achievement system set up by the Adventure Guild. Each island and dungeon has a set of tasks to abide by and completing them will net a nice boon of experience. Leveling up pretty much effects one thing per increase. Some examples include increasing the aforementioned amount of items you can hold, giving you a gun for your ship, and how much mana spells consume. Without any kind of guide, it’s hard to know what you’re fighting for and makes the system feel very arbitrarily complicated as if it’s there to give Oceanhorn a differentiating edge between it and Zelda.
Visually it captures The Wind Waker’s lighter, more vibrant color scheme while the design of the levels is more bight-sized akin to A Link Between Worlds. Each island has its own set of mysteries, some of which can only be mastered after returning multiple times. While initially it feel great to explore smaller areas in a larger world, after a few quests, it all starts to feel the same especially the underground levels albeit with slightly remixed pallet choices. I never felt immersed in an environment. The music, I should say, at least emulating the feeling of being on a grand adventure.
Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas is a good Zelda-like, but it comes nowhere near Nintendo’s achievements. In saying that I feel somewhat bad as the team clearly loves the series and tried hard to pay homage. Unfortunately the ideas aren’t fully fleshed out and perhaps it’s because it started on iOS. The story, characters, dungeons, and bosses all feel lackluster. I actually really did like the game and in turn it gives me hope for the recently announced sequel. If Cornfox and Bros. manage to learn from the first game’s mistakes, I think Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm will be brilliant.