Many indie developers wear their influences on their sleeves. Although Oceanhorn looks like a Zelda game, it actually carves its own path but was it a path worth carving?
Oceanhorn has been referred to as an indie take on The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. I get it, it has similar visuals and the main character rides a boat between locations. But, after playing through it, that's mostly all they have in common. In fact, Oceanhorn plays nothing like any Zelda game that I've ever played and I played almost all of them. Instead, it has an isometric setup similar to the recently released Lumo. You play by speaking to the locals to learn new information then explore dungeons in order to uncover various items and slay dastardly beasts. There are some RPG elements such as earning experience points to level up which grants you oddly specific boosts. Overall, I'd consider it an isometric adventure game with some added elements that make it a satisfying journey to be a part of.
The story involves a young boy whose father is missing. Upon finding his notebook and a mysterious necklace, the boy decides to go on a quest to find him and possibly follow in his footsteps. One of the highlights of the experience is hearing tales from various characters who do great jobs of painting the lore of Oceanhorn's world. On the other hand, the visuals and sound leave a lot to be desired. The graphics aren't particularly good or stylish although certain places are full of colour which does look beautiful at times. The voice acting is serviceable although the levels are a bit screwy. In other words, one character can be quiet while the next one's voice is booming. The best part of the audio is the music which is partly composed by industry veterans Kenji Ito and Nobuo Uematsu.
One of the best parts of Oceanhorn is that there is a lot to see and do. It's impressively non-linear in that you can travel to dozens of islands whenever you wish (assuming that you've unlocked that many). On these islands, there are loads of secret treasures and goodies to uncover. Without using a guide, you can spend hours upon hours searching the world for more treasures and still come across stuff that you missed. The primary collectible are Bloodstones that you find all over the place and can even purchase a radar device that helps you seek them out. On top of this, you can also go fishing and try to collect at least one of every species during your travels.
Even though there is a lot of replay value, your enthusiasm may become too deflated to care after a while. This is due to the generally easy puzzles and unsatisfying combat. Throughout the entire campaign, I didn't come across one puzzle that I found to be remotely challenging. You push boxes, shoot at targets, and deliver items to folks. It gets tedious fast. Also, any game where it's more fun to run by and avoid enemies than it is to fight them is proof that its combat isn't worth the effort. Hacking away at enemies is either far too monotonous or frustrating because they are either pathetic or cheap. That said; this is still an overall enjoyable adventure.
Oceanhorn is an interesting game for sure. It looks like Zelda and plays like a classic isometric adventure yet it manages to feel almost wholly unique. Aside from a few complaints, I can easily recommend it to anyone who's looking for a fun little quest to take on.
- + Satisfying isometric adventuring with a dash of Zelda and RPG elements
- + Interesting world and story
- + Loads of secrets to uncover
- - Mostly poor visuals and noticeably unbalanced audio levels
- - Puzzles are too easy and tedious
- - Combat is more of a pain than it is fun