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Game Review: Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas

A Zelda-clone that delivers on almost all fronts.

Developer: Cornfox & Bros.
Publisher: Cornfox & Bros.
Platforms: Microsoft Windows (reviewed), iOS
Disclaimer: Copy provided by the developer/publisher

It’s basically a Zelda-clone. And it really doesn’t hide that fact at all. One of the very first things you encounter are pots you can pick up and throw in order to destroy them. There are bushes you can cut down with your sword in order to collect money, bombs and arrows and you have to explore dungeons in order to collect three pieces of a mystical item that helps you defeat the final boss. You also get a new, stronger sword and a new shield over the course of the game. The only thing it doesn’t directly lift form Zelda games is the fact that there isn’t a princess in this. Otherwise it’s an extremely faithful homage to Link’s adventures, especially Wind Waker and Phantom Hourglass, since it incorporates a lot of sailing as well.

I think the most interesting aspect about the game is the fact that it actually came out on mobile devices first. Because while playing it on PC, I honestly wouldn’t have guessed its origins. The interface is perfectly adapted for PC and it’s playable with both controller and mouse and keyboard. And for a mobile game it’s definitely quite a lengthy game to play. It took me on PC around 10 hours to get through and I haven’t even collected all the hidden secrets in there and even for a proper PC game the length is adequate enough. The only thing it’s lacking is good bossfights. There are only really six bossfights and two of those don’t involve any strategies beyond holding up your shield and countering when the enemy is exposing himself. Three of the boss fights are the ones where you collect the faux-Triforce shards and then the last one at the very end. Even though you need to employ different tactics to beat them, they’re not all that challenging to figure out.

And since there’s only three shards to collect, there are only really three big dungeons to explore. The other dungeons are very small and don’t contain many puzzles. And speaking of the puzzles, they’re mostly very easy block pushing or switch pressing puzzles. Only one of the puzzles was rather hard for me to guess, the rest is fairly straightforward.

Other than that I can say that I’m very pleased with the art style. They really managed to capture the typical whimsical Zelda aesthetic. Though what elevates the experience is definitely the soundtrack. It does take a lot of inspiration from other video game composers, but it’s still very enjoyable and very fitting to all your surroundings.

If there’s one problem I had, at least with the beta build I got for review purposes, it’s the amount of crashes I suffered. The game constantly crashed on me for no apparent reason, and it had tremendous difficulty maintaining 60 FPS on my rig which is saying a lot. Though I did notice that the crashes subsided on the day prior to release, so maybe they’ve fixed it. Though really, the crashes were only annoying in the sense that I had to restart the game. Because the auto-save function is pretty damn awesome in this game, I barely lost any progress while playing it, so there’s that at least.

In the end, it’s an obvious Zelda-clone because that’s exactly what it wants to be. And for an effort from a small indie studio from Finland it’s definitely not a bad one. It obviously can’t hold a candle to a proper Zelda-game, but keep in mind that they’re created by an army of programmers, artists and composers who basically swim in Nintendo-money.

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