Do you like The Legend of Zelda? Is The Wind Waker your favourite game? If the answer is yes, then you’re going to love Oceanhorn: Monster Of Uncharted Seas. It is a perfect homage to the classic action-adventure game that won the hearts of millions, but does a game that seems to copy so much, manage to stand on its own two feet? Let’s find out.
I am guessing that Cornfox & Bros are huge Zelda fans as they have created a game that plays almost identically like The Wind Waker. Seriously it’s almost exactly the same game. This could be seen as a plus, because as owners of an Xbox One you may not have ever had access to the Nintendo classic and this is therefore your chance to play something that comes tantalisingly close. However, with this being an indie title, we would never expect the sheer scale and detail to be even close to that of a Zelda title, but to be honest it does a pretty damn good job of trying.
The story of Oceanhorn is as follows – Old Scriptures tell of ancient Relics that hold the power of Gods, their purpose was to maintain the balance of the world but they lost their power in the catastrophe, the same time as Oceanhorn (the great monster) appeared. We play as a nameless young boy who must follow in his father’s footsteps to gather the three sacred emblems (aka Triforce) and defeat the monster Oceanhorn. The Old Hermit on your home island tells you the importance of these emblems but he isn’t sure where they are, and this is when the game gets interesting. He tells you to travel to the next island of Tikarel and speak with the locals to get clues – this is the basis of the game as you need to speak to different island inhabitants, learn clues and gather information about new ones before eventually getting to the island you are looking for to find the next emblem. The game does a great job of not having a giant arrow on your minimap constantly telling you where to go next. It gives you freedom in spades and allows you to explore at your own pace. There is a clear storyline to follow but it really doesn’t hold your hand, something rare in video games nowadays, but it was very refreshing to see.
The structure of the game is something we have seen a thousand times before: get new item/weapon, unlock new area, explore dungeon, boss fight, new weapon/item, repeat. This sort of thing can become repetitive but because the game looks so damn pretty, you can’t wait to explore a new dungeon or find out what that new item will be. To explore you have a diverse range of items at your disposal, these include your sword and shield, bombs, a bow and arrow, jump boots and a range of spells to help you along. This does keep things varied as you can use these items in specific ways to solve puzzles along with killing certain enemies. You’ll want to kill as many of the wide range of enemies as possible, as well as solve the puzzles because that is how you level up; collecting XP from defeating enemies and achieving specific challenges, ranging from swimming 500m, smashing 50 boxes or killing an enemy with a laser. Each level up increases something, whether that be that you use less stamina to run or can carry more items etc.
I did have a few gripes with the game that definitely brought down the level of immersion, and the first was with the sailing aspect. When you play The Wind Waker you can sail your boat to the next island and have full control, but sadly Oceanhorn lacks this as when you go into your map and select your next island of choice, the boat steers itself. This is really frustrating as you’d think the developers would have allowed you to do that, especially in a current-gen game. They have, however, added the inclusion of a gun to shoot at octopuses, boxes and sea mines during your journey, but I can’t help feel that they just added this to break up the monotony of travelling from A to B.
The other negative element is the level of difficulty – it’s just so easy. The difficulty level of puzzles and enemies ramps up very slowly and the vast majority of puzzles include moving boxes or pushing buttons that eventually gets you a key to open up the next room to push more boxes and buttons. I found myself overthinking everything and getting frustrated when I realised how simple the actual solution was. Sadly, the later puzzles are just as simple as the first, so don’t expect to be blown away by anything too mind-boggling. This level of frustration is the same with the enemies as they are infuriatingly stupid – they don’t have any special tactics or different abilities from each other – they will just run at you or try to hit you with their weapon, meaning you just have to hack and slash your way through.
After just a few hours with the game I lost count of the amount of similarities Oceanhorn has to the Zelda series. The list is unbelievable actually – the sailing scenes, heart pieces, dungeons, enemies, puzzles, master keys, the chest opening animations with accompanying triumphant trumpet music, the breaking of clay pots and even hacking at grass to find treasure. I’m not sure if it is a perfect homage or just a plain old clone, I’ll leave that up to you.
Whichever you choose though, Oceanhorn: Monster Of Uncharted Seas is a fantastic game, it has wonderful voice acting throughout, it looks beautiful and there is enough variety to keep you engaged through its 10 hours or so of gameplay. It is however, trying so desperately hard to be a Zelda game that it loses sight of trying to be something a bit unique. It doesn’t have an original story or ideas and it is extremely easy, especially the repetitive puzzles. It does however, create a fun world to explore and makes me realise how much I love this style of gameplay.
Now where did I put Zelda?