I often wonder why more games don’t try to emulate The Legend of Zelda. With the exception of Darksiders, it seems strange that more games don’t follow the “Zelda formula” (exploring a fantasy world, plundering dungeons for items to help you to keep exploring the world). Only recently does it seem like the monopoly on Zelda is being challenged with interesting games like Hyper Light Drifter, Secret Legend coming out next year and more recently with Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas—an interesting attempt at a Zelda that is a bit rough around the edges, but well intentioned.
Oceanhorn tells the story of a young boy on a quest to find his father who disappeared one night when seeking to challenge the legendary Oceanhorn, one of three sea monsters thought to be sealed away long ago. The player will have to travel across the seas to three sacred locations, and delve into dungeons to collect ancient artifacts that will give them the power to defeat these fearsome foes.
There’s really not much more too it than that. It’s a good story and it feels very unique to itself while wearing it’s Zelda influences on it’s sleeve, even in it’s gameplay as exploring individual islands takes a top down classic-Zelda feel while sailing the ocean is very much inspired by Wind Waker, or more specifically Phantom Hourglass as you can only set a course to an island and watch your boat sail there. It looks beautiful and even boasts Kenji Ito as composer of a really great score. There’s familiar items like bombs and bows, and even familiar races like fish-people and bird-people.
However where Oceanhorn falls apart for me is how it can’t help but feeling very…indie. There’s a roughness to it, overall, movement is clunky and feels off; combat is equally as clunky even compared to earlier Zelda titles and does feel kind of monotonous as you mindlessly swing at enemies which isn’t helped by an auto lock-on system that makes fighting multiple enemies a bit of a chore. I can see where this would’ve been helpful in a game with a fully 3D perspective, but it breaks up the fluidity a top-down game needs to have.
There’s a general lack of production values and it’s not hard to see where a bit of polish would’ve made this game a lot better. Even the island design feels more linear than exploratory which a lot of people forget is the key to a good Zelda game. It has that Minecraft cubism thing going on which, to me, is indicative of an indie game. While none of these flaws are truly game breaking, it’s just a bit of a shame to see where a few tweaks would’ve made this game a lot better.
Oceanhorn’s heart is certainly in the right place, and it’s certainly not a bad game. There’s no escaping comparisons to it’s inspiration and personally, I think it does an admirable job for an independent title. It seems Cornfox & Bros are already working on a sequel which seems to be transitioning to a more 3D Zelda game. Here’s hoping they learned from the first game and offer an even better Oceanhorn experience.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation Vita code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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