Just short of legendary
Released in 2013, Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas was an ambitious mobile game that aimed to deliver an action adventure RPG on par with games on consoles. The game received plenty of praise and thanks to that it got ported to pretty much every other system that could run it, along with said praise was a lot of criticism due to how Oceanhorn resembles a certain game series with a young boy that usually wears a green tunic. While I sat back and watched these events unfolding I kept telling myself that I had to get my hands on the game to see which side, or if any of the two, was right. FDG Entertainment has recently managed to give me an excuse to finally play it with the recent launch of the PlayStation Vita version and now that I’ve played it I have to say that the comparisons to The Legend of Zelda are mostly deserved as this is also a very fun adventure game through and through.
Oceanhorn starts off with the father of a young boy leaving him to go fight a terrible mechanical monster, the titular Oceanhorn in order to bring an end to this evil entity, but he fails his quest and is never seen again. One night, a mysterious necklace left behind by the boy’s father floats off and sets off the events that lead to the boy going on a big adventure to discover what happened to his father and take down Oceanhorn himself. The overall plot is very simple but also very enjoyable, the few voice dialogues really add a lot and helps to flesh out some of the main characters.
The visuals are no slouch either, thanks to a custom-made engine the developers managed to deliver a truly fantastic portable experience, nearly on par with the other versions of the game. Though the game looks and runs impressively well there were a few times where I’d run across some strange collision detection (clipping through objects and parts of the environment) and slow down instances but both of these were very far and between and hardly affected my enjoyment of the game. The music score created by veteran composers Nobuo Uematsu and Kenji Ito is fantastic and really adds to the feeling that you’re out on a big adventure, even if some of the tracks can get repetitive after some time in longer islands.
In Oceanhorn you have to navigate a huge ocean while going from island to island finding clues where to go next in order to recover the items necessary to defeat the evil Oceanhorn. While on your boat in the ocean you’re able to pick from any given island through the use of a map, once a location is selected you’re put on-rails as you make your way to your destination. In the way there you might spot enemies or items that you can destroy with the help of a handy gun, which felt super snappy and responsive. I’m usually not a fan of being on-rails because it’s a restrictive way of doing things but in the case of Oceanhorn the trips between islands are short enough to let this minor nitpick go.
Once you arrive at your destination you’ll be greeted by a very straightforward and familiar gameplay. You can walk around and talk to people, swing your sword or pick up and throw items with ease. Besides this, throughout your adventure you’ll come across a few key items, like the Bow for example, that can help you solve puzzles and take down the respective island boss.
While I really liked how the path to dungeons wasn’t quite straightforward and the overall gameplay in terms of the combat I wasn’t a huge fan of the puzzles. Most of them revolved around pushing boxes around or using key items in very obvious ways, none of them was a decent challenge or that inventive and that was really disappointing for me. This might’ve been a design choice to make the game more accessible to younger players but I honestly think this leniency brings the game down a notch.
I’m really thankful for the items having shortcuts mapped to the D-Pad, I wasn’t aware of it at first and I had to go through a lot of menu opening and closing before realizing this which made me all the more grateful for it.
All in all, Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas is a perfect fit for the Vita and one of the best games you can grab for it in 2017. While I found the puzzles to be a bit too easy it certainly still was a nice surprise for someone like me who’s been delaying going on this epic sea adventure and it left me ecstatic for the upcoming sequel.
SGR Score: 8/10