Review: Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas (PlayStation 4)

Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas: Official GBAtemp Review

PlayStation 4 2,012 views 4 likes 7 comments
Reviewed by Raven Wilk, posted Sep 6, 2016, last updated Jun 21, 2017
I'm a fan of the Zelda franchise, I wouldn’t bring that up but Oceanhorn is heavily inspired by it.
Sep 6, 2016
  • Release Date (NA): September 7, 2016
  • Publisher: Cornfox and Bros.
  • Developer: Cornfox and Bros.
  • Genres: Action Adventure
  • ESRB Rating: Everyone 10 and up
  • PEGI Rating: Seven years and older
  • Also For: Android, Computer, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Initially released on iOS in 2013 and ported to PC in 2015, Oceanhorn finds its way to consoles. Set sail in search of your missing father and to hunt down the ancient Oceanhorn.
Raven Wilk
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Emblem of Earth

Developed by Finnish indie studio Cornfox and Bros., Oceanhorn drifts you into a colorful ocean world in search of three sacred emblems to discover the truth behind the Oceanhorn and why your father disappeared.
Aesthetically, there has been quite a visual improvement over its iOS counterpart as would be expected in porting to consoles (or indeed PC). Lighting and other effects work nicely to enhance the simplistic visuals and overall gives off an eerily reminiscent look to the likes of The Legend of Zelda Wind Waker. But that sets the tone for what Oceanhorn is, a heavily and unapologetically Zelda inspired game.​

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Emblem of Ocean

That inspiration carries most heavily into the gameplay formula, ranging from collecting four heart pieces to increase maximum health, to similar dungeon mechanics, or even overzealously wreaking havoc on innocent item-containing pottery.
Not to say it doesn’t have its own twists, the most notable of which is “Adventure Level”, which is increased with “Explorer Crystals” obtainable from chests, enemies and completing challenges. Each island you come across has three challenges, however, if you complete one on a different island you’ll still be rewarded. Raising your “Adventure Level” will increase the carry size of consumables, and decreases stamina and mana use. Early on, it upgrades ocean travel between islands into a rail shooter, which, while not very deep nor difficult, helps ease the monotony of frequent travel.​

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For land combat, using your sword for harder enemies tends to be more trouble than it’s worth, as they block your strikes when they attack. The expectation seems to be to block with the shield (which eats through your stamina super quickly) however, as your ranged weapons and magic cannot be guarded against, they easily (with bosses as exceptions) overshadow your swordplay. Speaking of the shield, it aligns towards the closest enemy, yet puzzlingly often reflects projectiles at an angle, though walking in the direction of an enemy as the projectile hits seems to help. Stamina is drained when blocking attacks, running, swimming and jumping. While there’s something amusing about running straight into an ocean only to instantly drown, slow recovery speed ends up being an arbitrary limit to movement and breaks the flow of gameplay.
Puzzles for the most part are intuitive and leave a sense of satisfaction, but there’s a few that are very counter-intuitive. One such puzzle requires you to drop a boulder atop a lever switch, another has you walk across a gap that on sight would seem impossible.​

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Emblem of Sun

Sound is without a doubt the highlight of the game, hiring Kenji Ito (known for Seiken Densetsu/Mana series music) and perhaps even more surprising, Nobuo Uematsu (known for Final Fantasy music) to compose a select few tracks makes for an auditory treat. Main composer Kalle Ylitalo does a wonderful job of capturing the atmosphere.
A contrasting low point comes in the sparingly used voice acting, as performances often come across as flat and dull.

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Verdict
Pros
+ Captures the essence of adventure
+ Great Music
Cons
- Clunky gameplay
- Camera controls when on land
- Stiff animation
7 Presentation
Visuals are rather simplistic but charming while animations tend to be stiff. Story can be quite awkward in the way it’s conveyed. Music shines through, fits really well and sets the mood nicely. Voice acting is a tad dull.
7 Gameplay
Oceanhorn is Let down by the stamina system, flimsy swordplay, and the occasional awkward puzzle. Despite that it’s still a fairly competent action adventure game.
5 Lasting Appeal
Main story takes about 10 hours to finish, although completing all optional islands and challenges will take a little longer.
7.1
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Cornfox's attempt at taking on the Zelda formula makes for a neat but flawed little adventure. While not as polished, it’s worth taking a look if you’re a fan of Legend of Zelda style gameplay.
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