Saturday, January 30, 2016

Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas (iOS, Steam) Review

This is a historic event here at SuperPhillip Central. It's a twofer here, the site's first mobile and first Steam review! Check out the world of Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas, and see if it's worth a look with SPC's review.

If The Legend of Zelda and mobile made love, you'd get this game.


One of my favorite video game franchises is The Legend of Zelda. I love the idea of exploring a vast world, entering puzzle and enemy filled dungeons, and collecting incredible items to help my hero's adventure along the way. Despite being a popular series, there are very few clones of Zelda nowadays. Back in the age of the original NES Zelda, there were some compelling clones, such as Crystalis and Beyond Oasis, for example. In recent times, we've seen games like Okami and Darksiders try their hands at dethroning Nintendo's storied series.

Enter Oceanhorn. The game is an isometric affair akin to another Zelda-inspired game, Landstalker. With lots of blatantly inspired bits from The Legend of Zelda franchise, and some just blatantly copied bits as well, Oceanhorn tries to make for an intriguing Zelda game on iOS devices and Steam. In some regards, it very much succeeds, while in other avenues it doesn't hold up so well.

Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas begins with you playing as a mute boy on an island occupied by a hermit. With help of said hermit, the boy is tasked with finding his father's sword and shield in a nearby cave. It's then that he is pumped and primed to go on a voyage around the sunken land of Arcadia to find his father's whereabouts and take down the monster that has been plaguing the land, Oceanhorn. The story elements are told well with some very nice voice acting, primarily done when you arrive at a new island and in post-boss story scenes.

A lovely stroll about town is in order between exploring dangerous dungeons and creepy caverns.
When you get acquainted with Oceanhorn's gameplay and particulars, you will know doubt see the striking resemblances between Oceanhorn and various Legend of Zelda games. For one, you travel in a boat, moving to and from islands in a land that was once above sea. Now, there are but a handful of pieces of land and remnants of the land of Arcadia that are still above water. Instead of freely being able to explore the oceans of Arcadia, you simply pick an already unlocked location (unlocked through talking with townspeople, coming across messages in a bottle, or through other means) and automatically sail to it. There is some interaction to be found through shooting oncoming enemies, mines, and barrels, but mostly the experience is much more passive than what'd you find in The Wind Waker.

Ocean exploration is as deep as a puddle in Oceanhorn.
Secondly, it's immediately apparent that beyond the isometric view that Oceanhorn possesses, that the game is a Zelda clone through and through. You can pick up jars and toss them against walls and floors to find coins and helpful pick-ups, you can cut bushes to find goodies as well, and you can even hold the attack button to perform a spinning slash, a la Link's spin attack. Then there's the means to add hearts to your health counter. Just like typical Zelda games, you're required to get four heart containers to add to your health.

Spin attack and pose, a perfect combination!
A good part of Oceanhorn is exploring the islands of the game, entering caverns and dungeons, and taking on the enemies and puzzles inside them. Most of the puzzles of Oceanhorn involve pushing blocks to the correct locations, whether it be on buttons to hold them down and keep doors open, or to use them as bridges to reach the other side of small chasms.

The environments are generally lush and full of life.
Like Zelda, dungeons are a big part of Oceanhorn, and the purpose of entering these is to find one of three special medallions that progress the story. Dungeons feature the most puzzle and combat elements in Oceanhorn. There are ordinary keys to find to unlock doors, as well as big doors and chests that require a Master Key to open, usually giving you the dungeon's required item, such as a bow and arrow, bombs, one of five magic spells, or whatnot, or opening the door leading to the dungeon's boss.

Let this arrow's aim be true.
Each island and area is devised of numerous cliffs, up and down topography, and hidden goodies in the form of secret treasure chests and rare ores called Bloodstones. The main means of discovery is to find out how to reach each special treasure or Bloodstone by navigating the land proficiently. Perhaps you drop down from a higher-up area to land on the plateau where a treasure chest is. It's not just important to get treasure to assist you in your adventure, but it also goes a way to adding to your completion percentage in Oceanhorn. An optional but fun task in the game is to get 100% completion on each and every island through finishing off all tasks, opening every chest, and finding every Bloodstone.

Surrounded, yes, but not surrendering!
With Oceanhorn on iOS devices, the control scheme has you using a virtual joystick to move yourself around. An attack button is available, as is an item button and means to open the item menu. Generally, tasks are built around this touch-based interface, making sure that no objective is made to be impossible to accomplish with these touch controls. Thankfully, if you're not in the mood to cover up the action with your thumbs, controller support is available for Oceanhorn. This is the way I played the game, and the controls worked wonderfully for everything I needed to do in the game.

This boss is still angry for being passed over for a part in Little Shop of Horrors.
Oceanhorn is a sizable enough adventure, especially for the price. The game has about ten hours worth of adventure to it, and that's not counting going for the before mentioned 100% completion on every island and outlet in the game.

If you're looking for what The Legend of Zelda would be like if it were made for a mobile device, then Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas is a good visualization. While it doesn't come anywhere near the highs of the Zelda franchise, it's a suitable substitute until Nintendo and DeNA come up with a way to play Zelda on mobile devices. For Steam users, there are better Zelda clones available, but Oceanhorn is still worth checking out. Though the gameplay and puzzles are simplistic and won't require too much thought, the game is quite the catch, to put it in fisherman on the old Arcadian seas terms.

[SPC Says: B-]

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