Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas Review — A Link with No Soul
Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Vita, and PC feels too much like a lifeless clone of the Zelda series.
If you have seen anything about Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas, you likely already know that it borrows the majority of its ideas from The Legend of Zelda series. Although games tend to be iterative on previous genre mainstays, the problem is that Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas takes all of these ideas from a long-running series and doesn’t do any of it better, nor does the game ever really stand out on its own. At the end of the day I can only recommend Oceanhorn to the most hardcore Zelda fans or those who’re really looking for more adventure games on the Nintendo Switch.
I commend developer Cornfox & Bros for quickly bringing Oceanhorn to so many different platforms, including the PlayStation Vita and the Switch. Noticeably the Switch is a very good home, if not the definitive home, for Oceanhorn; the game in many ways obviously has a very Nintendo-esque aesthetic. The problem is that the game lacks a lot of the excitement and fun that you can find in the Nintendo series it draws inspiration from.
Oceanhorn opens up with the nameless main character’s father leaving him a letter before he goes off to face the titular Oceanhorn, an ancient monster that’s terrorizing the world. You wake up to find your father gone and an old hermit on the island helps you get your bearings.
It’s in the earliest moments of play that Oceanhorn shows some glimmer of promise. Unfortunately everything gets old fast; once I got past the game’s first few dungeons, I realized my time playing would amount to nothing more than hopping from one island to another, hunting for different items — and the hefty amount of backtracking that would follow.
The gameplay is very responsive and moving around feels good. You But when it comes to something like combat, the game can get very boring. Throughout my time with the game I never really found any enemies that gave me much trouble. Battles never felt exciting, every new enemy I discovered could be beaten by simply blocking and striking, there was no variation to them. Even when there was the solution wouldn’t be a challenging one.
Boss battles amount to nothing more than dodging and striking your enemies repeatedly, with little to no variation in their movements. Each boss often does little to change this rinse and repeat formula. The game will give you new items for combat but the sword still always remained the best solution for any encounters. The combat works very similarly to an overhead Legend of Zelda game like A Link to the Past.
The world of Oceanhorn is a mixed bag of some pretty interesting areas and also some very boring ones. Dungeons do have a small charm to them, but generally the puzzles and enemies found within these dungeons make them anything but difficult or engaging. I found myself dying very rarely in my run-through of the game and no part truly had me stuck.
Puzzles usually amount to nothing more than pushing some boxes to make a path, finding a switch, or searching for a key to unlock a door. Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas also doesn’t have many side quests so once you’ve completed the main story there isn’t much left that’s going to make you want to go back.
My biggest issue with Oceanhorn is that nothing feels new or exciting. I’d respect Oceanhorn more if it was an ode to the Zelda series with its own aesthetic, story, or literally anything that would make it feel less like a clone. But there’s far too much that makes the game feel like it’s trying be an exact copy of the series it draws most of its inspiration from. And it doesn’t do anything better than Zelda; in fact, it does a lot of things worse than those games.
Oceanhorn’s travelling system is obviously an ode to Wind Waker but it lacks the sense of discovery or excitement found in that game. Each expedition to a new island feels the same and they quickly lose their appeal.
There’s not much to interact with when you’re travelling to a new island. You don’t get control over your ship, instead it’s put on a set path and you can control your gun to shoot enemies and treasure. Sea travel could’ve been a great addition to Oceanhorn but it just doesn’t add much of anything besides some scenic views that quickly lose their charm after the umpteenth time.
The soundtrack is also boring. Taking inspiration from a series with one of the most iconic soundtracks in gaming, you’d think there would be a little bit more effort put into this dimension. But no track in particular is memorable, even while some standout more than others. It also doesn’t inspire any sort of player exploration like soundtracks do in other adventure games.
With all that negativity out of the way, Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas looks great on the Nintendo Switch. Like I said earlier, I commend the developer for bringing the game to so many different platforms. The Switch version may very well be the best way to enjoy the game, especially when on the go the game can feel somewhat like a handheld Legend of Zelda, but don’t set your hopes too high.
Unfortunately Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas doesn’t stand out from the crowd. It copies too much and does too little to elevate itself above its competitors. While there have been plenty of games in the past that have copied or taken inspiration from the Zelda formula, Oceanhorn copies Zelda beat for beat and it doesn’t do anything better than that series.
If you’re a hardcore Zelda fan you may find enjoyment in Oceanhorn; the game’s not bad, just very bland. It also might appeal to younger audiences who may have never played a Zelda game before. This game is a good stepping stone into that genre. Ultimately I wish Oceanhorn created more of an identity for itself but it ends up just playing it safe.