Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas (Xbox One) Review

By Nikola Suprak 04.10.2017

Review for Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas on Xbox One

It isn't hard to see why games want to be like The Legend of Zelda. It is a series that has been consistently excellent from the mid 1980s until right now. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be like Zelda, and it is no surprise that a fair number of clones have come out over the years. Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas is one of the latest to hit the market, and while many try to be similar, this one seems to just want to be identical. There is an homage and then there is borderline plagiarism, and unfortunately this falls a bit closer to the latter than the former.

The hero in Oceanhorn is having a bit of a rough time, and not only because he is only ever referred to as hero and nothing else. That's a lot of pressure to put on a kid, particularly because his father just sort of up and leaves one day, vaguely warning him that something may or may not be coming to eat him, too. Some mechanical monstrosity has been plaguing his entire family, and apparently killed his mum at some point in the past. It seems like the dad might want to inform him of this at some point, but he goes off to fight the monster known as Oceanhorn and tells the hero to prepare himself and train under the watchful eye of this weird old guy a couple of islands over. Soon, it falls to the hero to travel to all the nearby islands as he slowly reveals the history behind Oceanhorn and these lands and prepares for an epic confrontation against this creature himself.

Screenshot for Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas on Xbox One

The plot is fairly predictable and relies on the most common of tropes so there really aren't any surprises along the way. The writing is also lifeless, so when people are talking, it is easy to just lose attention whenever a scripted scene starts to occur. There is plenty of back-story here that will be revealed along the way, and the ingredients are here for a decent story if it had been executed a bit more competently. The world building is actually fairly good, and while similar things have been seen before (notably in some of the Zelda games), and there is some creativity to the back-story that is almost interesting at times. The writing is just a total meltdown, though, to the point that it is nearly impossible to care about any of the characters in any real way. At some point a love story is kind of shoehorned in for the hero, but it comes out of nowhere and seems to happen because it is one of the three or so women that apparently occupy this world. There is one scene where the girl kind of flirts but nothing is really mentioned before or after so it just feels out of place, which is how a lot of the scenes feel, sadly, and the writing doesn't allow for anything to develop because it all feels so mechanical.

The easiest way to describe Oceahorn is that it is Zelda-lite. It feels a bit like a mix between Wind Waker and the original Zelda for the NES, combining sailing to a series of small islands with a top-down view of the action with an emphasis on exploration and discovery. That description sounds amazing, sure, but the execution here is sadly lacking and while it is obvious this game is trying its hardest to be Zelda, it winds up falling decidedly short of its lofty goal. Sometimes it feels like it is trying so much to be like Zelda that it forgets to develop its own identity, and you can be assured if something was in a Zelda game, it's going to show up in Oceanhorn, as well. Link has a bow and arrow and bombs, so Oceanhorn has a bow and arrow and bombs. There are four heart pieces to collect to get a new heart container in basically all the Zeldas, and wow, what a surprise, it is exactly the same here. There are boss keys, a powerful artifact that is actually three different things, and even a reflective shield that can redirect attacks back at a certain boss that feels like it was almost directly stolen from the Nintendo 64 Zeldas. There are products that use classic titles as an inspiration to go on to create their own unique thing, but that isn't what happens here. This is swiping the test from the person next to you in class, scribbling your own name on the top and hoping the teacher somehow doesn't notice. It just doesn't feel like this has its own identity or perspective, and the game definitely suffers because of it.

Screenshot for Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas on Xbox One

Still, even with all of that said, Oceanhorn is certainly not a bad adventure. It might not be Zelda, but the formula there is so strong that even kind of, sort of, maybe like Zelda… is still a fairly solid title. There are a series of islands to explore, dungeons to crawl through, and puzzles to solve. The further the hero gets the more tools and equipment he will unlock, which will allow him to tackle more complex challenges. The core is really focused on the exploration, and that is a good thing because that is what it really does best. There are a decent number of islands to find, each with various hidden treasures, or items to collect. The quest to get 100% is probably the biggest draw here, and it is fun to dig around every nook and cranny on every island just to try and find everything. The puzzles are fairly well designed, although they do rely a bit too heavily on the same three or so types from beginning to end. Push blocks, hit targets with arrows, blow up breakable walls; they all tend to be the same sort of thing. Still, there is a good amount of stuff to see here and the dungeon design is strong enough to make it feel rewarding when every last goody is finally tracked down.

There are problems here outside of the fact that it is a subpar Zelda clone, though. The biggest issue is the combat is fairly disappointing. It isn't exactly bad, but it is extremely basic and not much is really required other than swinging a sword quickly and ducking behind the shield at the right time. Almost all of the monsters are very straightforward and outside of the boss fights combat just aren't that interesting. Neither the items nor the magic really add much either way. Arrows provide some distance for combat, but it is much easier and quicker to just go up and whack all these basic enemies with a sword. Magic is even worse, and really doesn't come up all that much except against a couple of enemies that can't be attacked normally and to solve some extremely basic puzzles. Ice in the way? Use fire. Fire in the way? Cool it down with ice. It simply isn't worth the time it takes to get the spell ready, and even the big extra good spell that is given out for finding almost all of the hidden items is practically worthless. The bosses are a nice touch, and certainly do a significantly better job at testing the hero's skills than the numerous peons wandering around. Each one is about half combat and half puzzle, but they do a nice job incorporating the game's mechanics and really testing the player's skill. It would have been nice if this made its way to the rest of the adventure because, for the most part, combat is worth avoiding as much as possible.

Screenshot for Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas on Xbox One

Then there are numerous other small complaints that add up each time a new annoyance is run into. Sailing from island to island is a chore, and is somehow even worse than what everyone complained about in Wind Waker. The boat just automatically goes to its destination, but for some reason the game forces the player to watch the twenty second or so trip for some reason without giving them anything to do. They can shoot at barrels or mines, but the boat trip itself is automated so it feels like a boring rail shooter. The fishing mini-game is a boring mess and not worth anyone's time and there doesn't even really seem to be a point to it. There are a lot of issues like this, where they aren't huge problems by themselves but overall it adds up and the end result is the adventure is not as enjoyable as it could be. The exploration is fun, the boss fights are solid, and the dungeons are well designed, but other than that the game falters a lot and this really isn't a worthy successor to Zelda. It feels and even looks very rough, like this was maybe supposed to be the beta version of the game that got leaked by accident. There are flashes of promise here, but a lot is not well thought out and it needed more time in development to turn into something truly spectacular.

Screenshot for Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas certainly isn't a bad game, but it gives the impression it wanted nothing more to be like Zelda, and because of that, that's all it really is. It feels like Zelda-lite, a sort of homage to the classics that follows the pattern well enough without infusing enough charm on its own to help it stand out. There is certainly some fun to be had here, and the combination of exploration and adventure works as well as it ever has, but if it wanted to be a competitor for Zelda, it sadly falls short. The dungeons are too simple, the puzzles to straightforward, and the combat too forgettable for Oceanhorn to truly make its own mark. This might be a nice first step into uncharted waters for the series, but hopefully for the sequel there will certainly be a bit more.

Developer

Cornfox & Bros.

Publisher

Cornfox & Bros.

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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