Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas (Xbox One Review)
Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas is a top-down adventure game with an emphasis on exploration and puzzle solving. While it launched originally on iOS in 2013, it has since been remastered for PC and consoles. It’s difficult at times to keep in your mind that Oceanhorn is a port of a mobile game, simply because it doesn’t play, look or feel like one. Oceanhorn has been given an extensive overhaul for PC, and it’s something we benefit from now it’s come to consoles.
Let me throw out the obvious comparison, just to get it over with. Oceanhorn is a lot like The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. Virtually every review for this game will tell you that. I’m a lifelong Zelda fan so, for me to even begin comparing Oceanhorn to Wind Waker says a lot about the quality and heart of this mobile title that has found it’s way to Steam, Mac and now to consoles.
Oceanhorn instantly grips you with a cartoony art-style that’s very bright and colourful. The environments vary from quaint villages to dark graveyards, from deep forests to icy caves, and every single one of them is very pretty.
Immediately after you’re finished absorbing the scenes before you, Oceanhorn’s relaxing music washes over you like the tide. The first name that appears during Oceanhorn’s opening credits is Nobuo Uematsu, a legendary composer who’s worked on Final Fantasy, Blue Dragon, and Super Smash Brothers. Let that sink in. Uematsu is a rare talent in any industry, where you can feel his influence, his presence, in any soundtrack he touches and Oceanhorn benefits massively from the legendary composer’s touch. Kenji Ito and Kalle Ylitalo feature on the soundtrack as well, and it’s a definite highlight of the game.
With a title like Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas, you’d expect to spend a fair amount of your time out on the open sea. And you’d be right. Like Wind Waker, Oceanhorn’s world is divided into many islands, using your trusty boat to make your way between them. While sailing, your direction and speed are locked like an on-rail shooter which, combined with the fact you can only visit islands you’ve been told about, takes away some of the exploration aspect of the game. That said, there are a fair few optional islands to discover, so you’re never lacking for a new destination to put on your horizon.
Oceanhorn’s story is a fairly standard affair. A young, seemingly normal boy wakes up one morning on the island that he shares with only his father and an old hermit. The father has gone missing, leaving behind his journal to guide the son on an adventure. We find out that both father and son are inexplicably tied to an ancient evil that threatens to destroy the world, and the boy must follow in his father’s footsteps. The dialogue provided during cut scenes is presented by voice actors, rather than just standard text, and each actor plays their part with enthusiasm.
It’s all fairly cliché, but it works. It’s a tried and tested formula for great adventure games, and that’s exactly what Oceanhorn is. While maybe not quite an ‘instant classic’, it certainly fills a Zelda-shaped void in the non-Nintendo market. While both the combat and the puzzles fall a little on the easy side, you never mind, because the world is engaging, as are its people and its history. Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas is definitely one that all adventure fans should be looking to pick up.