Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas is an open world action-adventure game which originally started its life as an iOS title. It follows the journey of a boy protagonist on a quest to find his father and to defeat the infamous sea monster, Oceanhorn.
As previously stated, Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas started life as a mobile game, but what intrigued me most of all are the similarities it draws from The Legend of Zelda series as well as the music composed by legendary Final Fantasy composer, Nobuo Uematsu and Mana Series composer Kenji Ito. The musical score in the game really brings it to life; adding depth and character to each area.
The game begins with the young protagonist’s father leaving a letter, stating that he most go and defeat the sea monster known as Oceanhorn. Not much is given away during the opening scene and the player is encouraged to explore the world from the get go. the game is broken down into a number if islands, the first of which acts as a tutorial stage. Once completed the player unlocks the use of a boat which can be used to sail from one island to the next. I was a little disappointed at first to find that it’s not possible to freely control vessel but I imagine this is a leftover mechanic from the iOS days. As the game progresses, however, various items are unlocked to make sailing more fun.
Being a mobile port I can imagine the transition from touch screen to analogue stick is not always 100% accurate. As a result, I found the movement controls to be quite wooden, almost over sensitive. Navigating the islands many ups and downs were a little tricky; inadvertently the character would jump from a ledge or try to run into a walk instead of continuing on his current path. Using the right analogue stick to change the camera angle feels too quick; this is a minor niggle though and really didn’t impede gameplay in any way.
Storywise I found that Oceanhorn lacked slightly. It’s fairly basic and most likely won’t compare to games like The Last of Us or Final Fantasy XV but it does actively encourage players to explore. While I often found myself wandering aimlessly around an island or sailing from one place to another with no clear goal in sight, it wasn’t until I realised that speaking with one of the many NPCs that litter each area is a necessity in locating your next quest or discovering new islands to explore. Oceanhorn doesn’t hold your hand, and I love it. It lets you explore and discover how to move forward with minimal prompts. Locating and completing one of the many dungeons felt like an achievement and the excitement of not knowing what was coming next adds to the game’s charm.
In addition to the main story quest the game also offers a number of challenges for the player to complete on each island. Anything from collecting a number of coins to breaking a number of items. Each challenge rewards the player with experience and gold. Completing these challenges is a sure way of levelling up and reduced the amount of grinding needed that is normally present with most RPGs. It’s worth noting that completing these extras is in no way necessary and won’t impede your quest to defeat the Sea Monster. With that being said, however, it can help. Levelling up adds extra perks and inventory slots which are always handy.
When beginning the game you’ll notice how bare the ocean is and a limited choice of where to travel. This soon changes as players interact with NPCs and sign posts. When a new island is mentioned it surfaces on the ocean offering a new location to travel to offering dungeons to explore, puzzles to solve and enemies to defeat.
Visually, Oceanhorn is a very good looking game. Running at a smooth 60fps in 1080p while docked the colours are all crisp and vibrant while the islands, though small, are well designed. While not perfect, it’s not initially clear that the game started life as a mobile game that released four years ago. Having not played the original, I’m unable to draw any comparison, but taking the game at face value it’s obvious that the developers have worked hard to produce an adventure that’s nice and polished. One of my favourite aspects is whilst in underground caves, a thin mist hangs in the air giving the entire area an eerie feel to it.
The entire game has an air of The Legend of Zelda about it. From the obvious similarities of the boat to the more subtle hints such as the GUI. There’s even a heart system where players are encouraged to collect four heart pieces to increase the number of heart containers they have.
While a lot of similarities can be drawn from The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, Oceanhorn does differ by offering a simple, yet effective magic system. Throughout the game, the player will learn a number of spells which can be used to help in the adventure but as well as the puzzles that lie ahead. Magic works by slowing the action around the in-game character giving the player time to choose where to cast. This can be done using either the JoyCon or with the Switch’s touch screen. On the flip side though, all of your Zelda regulars are there: bombs, bow and arrow, sword and shield.
It’s clear that the developers were heavily inspired by the Zelda series, to say otherwise would be a lie. But looking past the Zelda-esque style Oceanhorn stands on its own two feet and offers players a fun adventure with great gameplay. There are a few niggles with the controls but nothing game-breaking and the game runs well on the Switch with no slowdowns or framerate issues. It’s easy to pick up and play and exploring is genuinely a delight. If you’ve not had a chance to play Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas yet, I can honestly say it is worth a try.