Many Nintendo fans have been wanting a Zelda game to come to the mobile platform for a long time, which although unlikely to happen, many developers are certain willing to try and fulfill. Developer Cornfox & Bros. does a solid job of making a game that, while lacking in the story department, gives you an enjoyable experience that is not found easily on the mobile platform. This adventure game will have you hacking, slashing, and puzzling your way though the Uncharted Seas in an epic adventure!
At its core, Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas is a Zelda “clone”. From the basic gameplay mechanics, to the fact that you are collecting three emblems to defeat help you in your quest to defeat Oceanhorn. Your quest is to find and save your father, as well as defeat the sea monster Oceanhorn. Plausible enough, but the details of how your father disappeared or how your mother died are answered, but just not really explained. The story is pretty cut and dry without many details. Overall, the story leads the player through the game pretty well, but doesn’t do much more than that, leaving you with a decent story experience that does a good job of keeping you engaged in the game, but doesn’t really make you feel any attachment to the story itself.
The gameplay of Oceanhorn is straightforward and simple to play on an iOS device. There is no virtual joystick that you can see like many action adventure games that allow you to move freely, allowing you to make your movements on pretty much any part of the screen, although you’ll still likely find yourself holding your device like you would if there was a virtual joystick on the screen. There is also an attack button, used primarily for swinging your sword at enemies and those pesky bushes that could hide money and items, as well as moving and picking up crates, barrels and more. There’s also a button that allows you to either a) use a spell or b) select an item, such as bombs, a bow, and the trencher boots. Once an item is selected, you can use it by tapping on it, offering a myriad of ways to defeat enemies and bosses, as well as complete the puzzles that await you.
The root of the gameplay is exploration as you make your way from island to island, searching for the seals and various other items and spells scattered across the sea. The majority of your quest is spent exploring dungeons (all of which are very simple to traverse, even with the puzzles), caves, and traversing various parts of islands as you make your way across the game world, the majority of which are basically large puzzles, requiring you to perform certain actions to be able to move ahead. The essence of the game has you battling enemies, solving puzzles, and collecting coins while exploring the many islands of the Uncharted Sea, much like The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker.
The game also has an experience based system in which you gain experience for completing the challenges of each island, defeating enemies, finding it in chests (usually difficult to get to), and shooting mines as you traverse the ocean. The experience levels you up and although you cannot distribute any skill points, you gain certain bonuses as you proceed through the ranks of the “adventurer’s guild”, such as being able to carry more bombs or arrows. Since the game is so inspired by Zelda, you also have the tried and true heart piece collecting that was found in many Zelda games, allowing you to add more hearts to your character (alternatively, you can buy them for 1000 coins in Tikarel).
The game does have a few downsides, however. The virtual pad can be unresponsive or jumpy at times, forcing you to jump off ledges or into enemies when you are trying to go the other way. Shooting arrows can be awkward, and if the game doesn’t register you going forward, you can sometimes drop a bomb at your feet instead of into an enemy’s face! Every once and a while, an enemy will get stuck in a wall as well, causing you to be unable to hit them, and in the case of some enemies Even though it’s a minor issue, it can be extremely annoying, especially when you have to run all the way back through a dungeon because you leaped off a ledge you didn’t want to. One of the other downsides, is lack of direction, as your “journal” only keeps the last few lines of conversation, so knowing what to do or where to go next can be very vague.
It’s a shame that the lack of polish and personality of the game take away from it, because the art and looks of the game are fantastic. The graphics aren’t all that impressive, as the world that you explore is massive for a mobile game of this calibur, offering over 15 hours of gameplay and even more if you decide to do everything that the game offers (finding collectibles and heart pieces). The world is styled in the same way that The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is, making it incredibly inviting to want to go out and explore every nook and cranny of the game. There’s not much else that can be said other than that the game is beautifully rendered, making your arduos journey through Arcadia one that makes you want to stop and smell the flowers from time to time.
The audio was done in part by Nobuo Uematso (The creator of the majority of Final Fantasy music, as well as many others) and Kenji Ito, so that’s all that needs to be said. All joking aside, the musical scores that accompany Oceanhorn are fantastic, adding a nice flair to your adventures in the world and making the somewhat dull moments much more enjoyable due to the sheer quality of the music that accompanies the game. It’s really suprising how much better a game can be made with a solid and enjoyable soundtrack. If anything, make sure you really listen to the music and sounds!
Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas is a Zelda clone that could have really been an incredible experience for the users who have been looking for something of its kind on mobile devices. Unfortunately, the Zelda “formula” is broken by the sheer fact that the game didn’t have much substance where it really mattered, the story and controls. Without those, the real heart of a great Zelda-styled game is lost. It is worth saying, however, that even with some of the issues that Oceanhorn suffers from, it is still a solid game that will keep you occupied for a very long time due to the massive amount of content it offers. If you’re looking for a great looking adventure game that will give you a vast new world to explore, Oceanhorn is definitely what you are looking for, and any iOS gamer needs to add this to their library, even with its flaws.