Oceanhorn – Monster of Uncharted Seas Review: A Hero of our Time

September 22nd, 2016 -

Over the years there have been lots of games that copied one another’s formulas, some being more successful than others. Every holiday now you can expect to get competing military shooters. Turn on Steam and look at the greenlit games and I’m sure you’ll find plenty that gimp one another frame for frame after only a few moments. There was a time when Collect-a-Thon games were big, but Nintendo held the crowning champs with Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie. Games like Vexx and the 3D Gex entries, while fun, don’t hold memories for people that Nintendo’s titles do (though A Hat in Time is shaping up nicely, and the upcoming Yooka-Laylee should be amazing and probably the new standard for the genre).

One of Nintendo’s most beloved series stars a princess in the title that you see very little of in the game. While there are plenty of action/adventure games that come out every year, very few if any get compared to the Zelda games. The last I recall really getting remarks like that was Darksiders. Well, if you enjoyed Wind Waker or The Phantom Hourglass mixed in with the older top down titles, chances are you’ll be interested in Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas.

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It’s hard to believe this was originally a game for iOS, and made it’s debut back in 2013, no less. Reading that, you probably worry about the depth of the game. Admittedly, it’s a bit shallow in terms of story, but when the game is fun, does it really need something beyond “you need to save the world because it’s your destiny?” The game world is isometric, which is a treat as many games no longer use the camera angle this way. It hearkens back to PS1 RPGs like the 3rd and 4th entry in Breath of Fire, or the Genesis title in the same genre: Landstalker. Unfortunately, some of the game animations are a bit… bad. Particularly people that are talking to you for the story; the rigs don’t appear to really be made for this type of animation. Which is sad, as the style of the game works really well.

Gameplay wise, think Zelda and you’re good. No, really. You get a sword and shield by the time you finish the first island, you’ll get a bow and arrows, bombs, magic, and more. Bombs will blow up secret entrances and reveal collectibles, arrows are used for puzzles such as targets and lighting lanterns if you’re low on mana, and magic is used for… well, enemies and puzzles. Enemies you come across will seem almost like a direct ripoff, but the game isn’t trying to make a quick buck off Zelda – it’s a love letter that delivers the beloved series to people that don’t have a Nintendo console and others who have been starved for another entry in the series. Unlike the FPS genre, there aren’t too many games that successfully pull off this formula, especially outside of Steam.

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While the game does a lot right, it also falls short in some aspects. The majority of enemies you will come across are mere damage sponges – even the mini-bosses you come across (sometimes you may think they’re a real boss) only ask that you circle around while defending and whacking, or using your bombs or spells. In that regard, battling can be a bit disappointing. It’s not until you come across the Octorok enemies, or flying enemies that wear masks and require multiple steps to defeat do you have to change up the method in which you kill enemies. Everything up until that point is swing your sword or throw whatever is lying at your feet to keep a safe distance and do more damage anyhow. The bosses follow the method of using whatever tools you acquired on the way to them, sometimes only really using one of them. It’s not extraordinary, but it’s a nice change from the rest of the game – however, these encounters are very limited.

One of the most intriguing parts of the game is the exploration. The islands you encounter while traversing the seas are teeming with secrets and begging the player to revisit them after earning new abilities, such as jumping. Going through the game you’ll come across platforms you have no way of accessing until you come close to finishing ice dungeon. It’s reminiscent of Super Metroid or the Castlevania games including and following Symphony of the Night, in which you find places you can’t explore until you acquire a certain power. It adds a sense of achievement and accomplishment that keeps you excited about what you’ll get next. Not every island you visit is essential to the game’s progress, and you’ll come across these islands by speaking to townsfolk and washed up messages in bottles. Finding all of the islands becomes a part of the game itself, much like the exploration in Wind Waker, albeit this doesn’t involve traversing the seas to find the places.

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While a simple title to pick up and play, Oceanhorn certainly knows what it wants to be, and it does a good job of being it. This isn’t a Nintendo crafted adventure that’s been in the works for years, but it certainly emulates enough of its inspiration to a degree that makes you wonder why more games don’t attempt to be like Zelda. The competition would be good for everyone, as we’d get more games and Nintendo would have to compete with others on its own playing field, forcing something magnificent to be made.

BUY

Pros

  • World to Explore
  • Intuitive Gameplay

Cons

  • Whack-a-Mole Enemies
  • Character Animations/Story

Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas was developed and published by Cornfox & Bros. The game launched originally on iOS November 14th, 2013, was ported to PC March 17th, 2015, and made its journey to PS4 and X1 September 7th, 2016 for $14.99. The game was provided to us for review on PS4, and played previously on PC. If you’d like to see more of Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas, check out the official site.

 

Here at FFoP we use a rating method that you may be unfamiliar with, so allow us to clarify. When we review a game, we see what sort of BRA fits. Buy, Rent, or Acquire is the rating we give out – we’ve boiled it down for simplicity. A Buy is worth the full retail value; a Rent is something you may want to try before you buy, or grab at a discount; an Acquire is something you can play, but we’d suggest borrowing it from someone, grabbing it in a game bundle, or some other means. If you want further clarification, please feel free to get in touch.

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