Uniquely Familiar: Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas Review

Apartment Therapy Game Room Review

Initially I was going to review the latest Legend of Zelda installment on the 3DS. But, while the game is amazing, there’s nothing more I can really add that other reviews haven’t mentioned before. So, Instead I found myself enamored with an adventure game that has you sailing the open seas, battling creatures with your sword, collecting items like bombs, a bow and magic spells from dungeons in order to prepare for an epic battle against a legendary foe. Sound familiar?

In all fairness, there are a lot of similarities between Oceanhorn and Legend of Zelda (more specifically, Wind Waker.) However since we’ll never see Legend of Zelda on smartphones or tablets in the traditional sense, this is as close as we’re going to get. So what’s Oceanhorn about? Our nameless hero is on the hunt for his Father who disappears in the night, leaving an ominous letter of the unstoppable beast Oceanhorn that appears to be after him.

The main theme from Oceanhorn sounds vaguely similar to To Zanarkand

Similarly to Wind Waker, players will be hopping from island to island in order to gain new items and move forward with the plot. The major difference with this aspect of the game is there is no free-roaming exploration rather new islands are discovered through conversations with NPCs (non playable characters). It's a bizarre design choice but removes long, tedious travel sequences.

Gameplay

Although we're talking about a touchscreen game, one of the harder aspects in playing Oceanhorn is maneuvering through the terrain. There is no way to climb up onto platforms but dropping down is possible which results in a lot of backtracking after a misstep. Not only that, it's difficult to tell what is level landscape or how to create a path with the convoluted level design.

Over time it does get somewhat easier but then comes the issue of confusing levels. There is no determinable way of knowing if you're finished with an island and you'll end up circling around constantly. Also destructive areas don't look any different from the rest of the scenery which makes it difficult to determine where you can use bombs to proceed with the plot. I was stuck on what to do next and had no idea that I had to use a bomb at the top of temple in order to drop down.

Music

The idea of a Zelda clone for the iPad and iPhone was compelling initially but what ensured a play-through was the participation of Nobuo Uematsu (of Final Fantasy fame) and Kenji Ito (who worked on the Mana and SaGa franchises.) These two veterans of adventure game soundtracks influence clearly shows with appropriate melodies accompanying the various tones of the game. Fans of classic RPGs from the Super NES era will experience intense nostalgia with these professionally composed tracks which are one of the better parts of the game.

Bottom Line

Despite the issues such as okay graphics, strange animations, unclear scenery, and confusing level design, Oceanhorn is a formidable game for iOS devices small, medium and large. The simple combat, amazing soundtrack, and retro gameplay is like a slice from the Super NES era of gaming reborn on a modern platform. It's not the best on the platform compared to games like Bastion but if you're looking for a fun distraction, Oceanhorn is definitely worth the money.

Our Ratings:
Strong Recommend
Recommend*
Weak Recommend
Don't Recommend

Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. This specific product was purchased by the reviewer for game review purposes.

(Image credits: Cornfox & Bros.)

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