By: Jeff Cater
A great monster has awakened in the vast sea, its cries being heard on the several scattered islands of this terrified world. Asleep one night, your father pens a note stating that he must go slay the beast.
Having received no word since that night, our hero sets off on a colorful and light-hearted adventure to find his lost father and to perhaps even slay the creature in Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas from developer Cornfox & Bros.
Oceanhorn has a very accessible layout cleverly translated from its touch-screen roots. You’ll move around with the left stick and engage enemies in combat by mashing Square. Your shield is brought up by holding down R1, and spells are cast with Triangle. If you need to pick up the pace or backtrack (spoiler: you will) you can expedite the process by dashing with “X,” which is also used to interact with the environment and characters.
While you’re sailing you really have no direct control over your ship other than plotting the course and defending yourself on voyage by using the left or right stick to aim your cursor and the Square button to shoot your gun.
While the game uses its color palette well, once you get a closer look at some things it gets a bit muddy looking. Sure, the game looks wonderful on a smartphone, but it didn’t receive too much in the ways of a visual upgrade when it made its way to consoles.
It doesn’t look terrible; it just doesn’t look at all breathtaking. That being said, the game does have a pretty attractive aesthetic. The design of the islands is consistently varied and interesting, and the animations are pretty sharp as well.
Voice work is very good, and the soundtrack is reminiscent of classic adventure games that Oceanhorn draws influence from. Sound effects for combat and various elements of environmental interaction are just okay and serve their purpose, but many of the spells you pick up sound pretty neat.
Once you start playing Oceanhorn you may be flooded with memories and familiar feelings of other classic adventure titles. Just take one look at the game and it’s no secret that it draws heavy inspiration from the classic SNES Zelda game, A Link To The Past. From grabbing and smashing pots to slaying creepy-crawly bugs with skulls on their backs, a lot of familiar elements are there.
That isn’t to say the game isn’t any good, that’s far from the truth. Oceanhorn plays very well, and although it has simplistic combat that quickly devolves into holding your shield up 24/7 waiting for an opponent to slip up, the exploration, puzzle solving and storyline are strong enough to make up for it.
Each island you come across will have unique quests and characters for you to complete and meet, and while some of the objectives become similar after a while there’s no shortage of things to do.
Slaying enemies and bushes alike will award you coins and crystals that can be used as currency to bolster your equipment and chances against the stronger enemies, but you will still have to remain observant of your surroundings and be quick at problem solving to progress.
Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas is a complete surprise. Sure, it takes a lot from a few of the Zelda games, but what we’re really presented with is a solid game with sound mechanics and great storytelling that should be given a fair shake.