When designing anything or creating anything, it is natural to take inspiration from other sources. However if taken too far, that ‘inspiration’ can very easily become copying. Oceanhorn walks over very thin ice trying not to fall into the copying zone. It’s inspiration of course comes from The Legend of Zelda series, as anyone could tell you having looked at pictures or gameplay footage for even a brief moment. More specifically, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker.
The art style, the lives counter, the weapons, the treasure chests, the bombs, the combat, breaking and throwing vases, finding money in small bushes that you destroy with your sword, and the sailing between locations (especially the sailing) have very evidently been swiped straight from Nintendo’s more successful and original title. There are definitely far worse games to take ideas from, but in this instance, Oceanhorn only made me wish I was playing Wind Waker instead.
The enemy types are slightly uninspired, and if they are inspired it’s by The Legend of Zelda. They mainly consist of beetles and other bug type creatures, bats, goblins in varying sizes, and other faceless or nameless entities. The very simple hit and block combat system is quite satisfying however, if a tad bit too easy. Once new weapons are found, such as bombs and the bow and arrow, the game does start to spice up the combat and the puzzles a bit more. The puzzles for that matter are quite well worked for the most part. They’re everything you would expect to see such as moving crates around in the right order and various lever based head-scratchers.
Once you explore new lands you will hear mention of other lands, be it from a person or a sign or as part of a quest. Once you’ve learned of them you can sail to them from your world map. This is no fast-travel however, instead you will sail there in real time by boat. Sounds like Wind Waker? That’s because it is, astoundingly so. The sailing is the thing that is most like it’s AAA inspiration, but it is done so much worse here. Sailing would be fun and upgrades to the ship would be exciting in Wind Waker, in Oceanhorn unfortunately the sailing is essentially just a rail shooter that will only make you wish you could upgrade to a speed boat.
But aside from the fact that this game is to the Zelda series what Super Mario Land is to the Mario series, the game does do things right. Similarly to the Super Mario series, it’s not the graphics that make this game beautiful but the art direction. Everything is very vibrant and colourful in most of the lands, and only bland and gloomy when appropriate. The worlds are also very detailed, there are lots of small things like vibrant foliage dotted around and townsfolk wandering here and there to make the world seem more real and busy, and it definitely works. When playing on the Playsation 4 at a constant 60fps, this game is a joy to move around in and explore.
In reality, this game gets by on its charm alone as the gameplay doesn’t have a lot to offer, nothing that you couldn’t get anywhere else. But charm is something it certainly does have. The music for the vast majority of the time is great. It’s melodic and calming when necessary, and faster and grander when sailing over the ocean to a new land or fighting the good fight. It can at times be a bit overbearing, but the music itself is still great and a positive note for the game. The level design is a positive too. The worlds are built similar to Minecraft in the sense that they are made up of cubes on a grid and the perspective at which you play suits this. It means puzzles can be more intricate but at the same time more fun to solve, because you can often see the whole puzzle in front of you at any one time.
All in all, this is a decent game in its own right. It’s fun to play, it’s relaxing and charming. Its £11 asking price is more than fair, considering it will take roughly 12 to 15 hours to complete the main story, more if you’re looking to complete all the optional challenges. Unfortunately however, it’s overbearing likeness to a far superior game holds Oceanhorn down significantly as it doesn’t do a single thing better, barely anything even on par, mostly it’s done a lot worse. But a lot worse than a fantastic game can still be good, and this is one of those cases.
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