I‘m going to be blunt—Oceanhorn is a deep-seated Legend of Zelda carbon copy. I’m talking a calculated, incessant, over-the-top derivative. You’re going to notice details ripped off from Zelda that could have been so easily done differently that it’s going to make you say, “Seriously, was that necessary?” And you know what, that’s fine with me. I used to let the unoriginality of a game annoy me, and it would overly affect my opinion. But I’ve had a change of perspective recently. To avoid all bias, a game should be reviewed as though it is the only game in the universe. Or at least that’s what is making sense to me right now. Maybe halfway though this article I’ll change my mind again and rip Oceanhorn a new one.
Oceanhorn has a “subdued cartoon” look that suits the genre perfectly. It’s not particularly realistic, but comes off more seriously than like Hey Arnold, or something. All the characters and landscapes work well together, with only a few of the enemies looking a little odd or unfinished. And for the music: it’s not bad, but many of the tunes have short loop cycles and thus can become annoying after spending very long in a particular zone. The plot is expectedly simple. An evil force or monster or something is threatening the land, and we have to go around collect some emblems which helps us beat him somehow. Obviously the story didn’t draw me in deeply, but that’s kind of standard fare. Let’s hear about the stuff that matters now.
Hey there, Set Leap Games reader. I know that you are hopelessly entwined in the world of indie gaming, but maybe you’ve heard of a certain mainstream game series titled The Legend of Zelda? You say that rings a bell? Ok well get this: Oceanhorn is exactly like a Legend of Zelda game to a ludicrous degree, except that it’s not as good! Oh you say that you’re used to that because a lot of indie titles are that way? Great, then we’re on the same page.
I’m not going to dwell on it because I’ve already mentioned it enough, but here is a list of Zelda-y things you’ll find yourself doing in Oceanhorn: sailing between disparate islands; using a sword, shield, arrows and bombs; solving dungeon puzzles such as pushing blocks and lighting torches in order to collect small silver keys and ultimately a master key for opening the boss door; collecting heart pieces to increase your maximum health; throwing tons of pottery against the wall; and much, much more. The only things that have been added to the core gameplay of a Zelda game is that you receive experience points for killing monsters, and you have a stamina meter for running/blocking/swimming.
But considering I was
lying saying earlier that this review wasn’t going to rest on how original the game is, let’s talk about how well any of these gameplay elements work out in Oceanhorn.
How are the puzzles?
Lots of pushing blocks. Granted, I have only played until acquiring the first of the three emblems, but there really wasn’t a single head-scratcher in the bunch. Basically, if you see a switch, hit it. If you see a target, shoot an arrow at it. If you see some blocks, push them around until you can get through them.
How is the NPC interaction?
The characters are well-designed and there is even some good voice acting. But don’t expect much out of them next to revealing a new island on your map to visit.
How are the side quests?
Virtually non-existent. This game is about going from point A to B to C and little else.
How is the fighting?
The fighting is simple, but it works. You block with your shield and you swing with your sword.
How are the bosses?
I don’t believe they are numerous, considering the first one is over 2 hours into the game, but he was designed well. It was an easy fight, so hopefully later bosses prove to be a bit tougher.
Is the game fun?
Oceanhorn doesn’t do anything “wrong”, but it never penetrates the “fun zone”, sadly. You just kind of cruise through it without any sense of wonder or true danger.
Without making mention of a certain classic puzzle adventure series with which this game shares many elements, I’ll say that Oceanhorn is a competent indie game that plays smoothly and has an appealing look and style. However, it does lack a certain amount of depth when it comes to puzzle variety/difficulty and side quests. But if you are hankering for an adventure game and don’t mind a linear gameplay experience, there is a certain charm to
Zelda Jr. Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas.