Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas Xbox One Review
Publisher: FDG Entertainment Developer: Cornfox & Bros. Genre: Action RPG
Players: 1 Age Rating: 7+ Other console/handheld formats: PS4
You don’t have to play Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas for long to realise what popular series the people behind the game were inspired by. Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series has long impressed with its blend of exploration and combat, and Oceanhorn takes much of its inspiration from The Windwaker, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. Forgetting about its inspiration, this isometric action RPG is definitely an absorbing enough adventure that is well worth playing in its own right.
Oceanhorn may sound like a name for a fancy boat, although as the rest of the title suggests, it’s actually a sea monster. Playing as a nameless young hero, your father goes off on a journey in a bid to slay the sizeable monster, although he doesn’t return, so it’s up to you to find out what happened to him as well as to slay the creature. It’s a functional plot, but there’s little additional depth to it, and it’s largely forgettable as far as the cast of characters and memorable narrative events are concerned.
Oceanhorn’s world certainly fares better than its story. Like The Windwaker, you explore the world by climbing on board a boat, and setting sail across the ocean. At first, you have little interaction when in the boat, with it heading towards the instructed destination automatically, although you are soon able to fire a weapon from the vessel, allowing you to kill any enemies or remove any obstacles in your way as well as to collect items and coins as you sail across the beautiful blue ocean. The sailing is simple, but it’s also effective enough.
Across the duration of the game, you’ll discover new islands to set sail towards, and some of these islands are optional, which means that exploration and discovering secrets are a must if you want to see as much of the game world as possible. Talking to people as well as finding messages can unlock new islands, and upon heading to these places, you may discover that you can’t get to certain areas until you unlock a specific skill at a later point in the game, which means that revisiting particular islands can be worthwhile, and brings to mind the likes of Metroid and Castlevania. The game certainly succeeds in the way that it feels like a world that needs to be explored, and the adventure can potentially last for over 10 hours, which means that there’s more than a decent amount of content for the £11.99 asking price.
When it comes to the rest of the adventure, the puzzle design is basic but serviceable enough and, like they did with me, some of them may stump you for awhile. A lot of the puzzles involve you moving blocks around and hitting switches, and they don’t really get any more complex than this, which will surely be a disappointment to those wanting to be faced with an enormous and puzzling challenge. Still, these retro style puzzles will be welcome to many who are wanting to play such a classic action RPG, and it’s just enjoyable to attempt to explore each island from top to bottom as you try to hit 100%, heading into dungeons and caves and whatnot, and finding chests stashed away in hidden corners.
The combat is also as equally basic in its design as the puzzles, but, again, it does the job. You begin the game with only a stick to your name; although this is later replaced by a sword and a shield, and you’ll eventually also have a bow and arrow. The combat is relatively clunky in the way that it’s not always obvious when enemies are going to strike, which means that it takes the edge off any real tactical play. Still, like I said, it does the job well enough and also offers simple enjoyment, although more in depth combat wouldn’t go amiss in the upcoming sequel.
You’ll also get your hands on a handful of magic spells in the game, which includes wind, fire, ice, and more. These spells don’t only help out during combat situations, but they are also required to solve some of the game’s puzzles. You’ll also unlock helpful equipment such as bombs, a bow and arrow, trencher boots that allow you to jump across certain gaps as well as to roll out of the way of enemy attacks, and a fishing rod for when you fancy a spot of fishing. When mentioning some of that equipment, you can probably understand where the Metroid and Castlevania exploration comparisons come in.
The game also has a likeable challenge system that presents you with a mountain of tasks to aim for over the game’s duration. To name a few examples, tasks include moving chests and other objects around 100 times, collecting your first 25 coins, killing three enemies with a single blow, and breaking walls with bombs 10 times. Completing any tasks will earn you extra XP, and once you have earned enough XP to reach a new level you are granted a new title (or Adventurer level) as well as various perks, which includes such helpful things as faster sailing, additional bombs, and more. It’s a system that feels very rewarding.
Oceanhorn is a beautifully eye-catching game in its entirety. True, this isn’t the kind of game that is pushing today’s consoles, but it’s a crisp, smooth and vibrant adventure all the same that is based on the maximum settings of the remastered PC version. It’s a game that looks utterly charming and it could quite easily be mistaken for a game that was developed in Japan as opposed to Finland. Captivating visuals are one way to draw you into a game world early on, and Oceanhorn manages to do just that with its colourful and inviting world. The music is also wonderful, which isn’t surprising considering that the likes of Nobuo Uematsu and Kenji Ito were involved in composing some of the tracks.
With simple combat, a forgettable story, and ancient puzzle design, Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas may not be the most taxing or innovative game in the world, but it’s certainly an absorbing one thanks to its beautiful and vibrant world as well as its successful sense of adventure. The game may not be up to the standards of the series that inspired it, but Oceanhorn is still a more than playable adventure in its own right, and one that deserves plenty of love and attention lavished upon it.