Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas

This review was originally written for WalaWala Games.
A free copy of the game has been provided in exchange for an honest review.

Title: Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Sea
Platform: PC / iOS
Developer: Cornfox & Bros.
Genre: Action / Adventure / RPG
Release Date: March 17th, 2015

In Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas you start your gameplay as a young man who wakes up to find his father gone; he disappeared after going in search of a monster known as Oceanhorn. With only your father’s notebook and your mother’s mysterious necklace as clues, you set off in his search and thus begins the adventure.

Oceanhorn is a very nice casual action/adventure RPG, complete with puzzles, which is quite reminiscent in many ways to Legend of Zelda. The gameplay revolves around you finding clues from NPCs, battling monsters, solving puzzles and collecting keys and treasures from the different islands around the vast world while you search for your father and discover more to the story and lore of the place. The story and lore might not be too in-depth, but it’s deep enough to keep you going through the game.

As I understand it this game was first made for iOS and then ported to PC, and although the port and game play are smooth enough that you might not have realized it, you can tell it was meant to be mobile by the way certain things work – such as in moving the world map, sliding the menu and other specific touch screen features.

Although the developers lean to the simplistic side, the game’s graphics are beautiful: bright, colorful, and they feel quite alive. There is something definitely cute about all the characters you encounter and the sights are gorgeous. The way all islands are a bit different, each with their own little biome, some even with weather, adds interest to the gameplay and makes visiting each one a slightly unique experience. This spontaneous element helps keep it from being tedious.

The music was also wonderful, fitting to the world and the islands. The voice acting was a bit hit and miss, but for the most it was pretty good. I just wish the main character would have spoken, too.

The camera I found a bit annoying at first, as it’s not free roam; you can only move it a little bit left and right, but I got used to it quickly and it did not hinder my enjoyment in the end. The camera follows you during boss battles too, which was both extremely helpful (as it did not get in my way), and extremely dizzying when my main strategy was “back up in circles and wait for an opening”.

Having tried both ways I can definitely say that the game plays a lot better with a controller, still, I used my keyboard through most of my play through without any major issues. The key distribution is decent enough and, if I’m not mistaken, you were able to rebind certain keys.

Starting up the game for the first time I could see the menu was simplistic, which was good and fitting for the game; but I was not overly pleased with the windowed mode option. The only option available was “Windowed (borderless)”, which was… still defaulting to full screen as I could not even change the resolution for it (but I could change the resolution for full screen). However, I read the developers were working on this. I’ll be happy to see the option to use regular windowed mode to play it, hopefully in different resolutions.

The world, as I already mentioned, is quite large. You get several islands to explore, but the islands must be unlocked first by talking to NPCs. If you’re not paying much attention to what they say, it’ll be easy for you to get a bit lost on which of two (or more) options you’re supposed to go to first in order to follow the main story line; still, at most you’ll need to do some backtracking. The game has a few tutorial bits (conveyed to you through little signs and pop ups), yet some things were still learn-as-you-go, such as how to deal with the world map.

To travel from island to island you sail a ship. I quite liked the idea of this initially – there’ll be monsters to shoot at and boxes to sink. Once more I was reminded of Zelda with this. The first couple of trips are quite nice, however, it soon becomes a bit bothersome to go from island to island, even once your ship gets upgraded to sail faster. I think it might have been much more entertaining if we’d been able to steer the ship ourselves (auto-pathing and steering both as options would have been fantastic!). This would have made it more interactive than just sitting there and shooting at things. It’s not much of a challenge to get to your destination though, just like the majority of puzzles are not much of a challenge either. They’re good, but they’re simple: perfect for a casual gamer such as me. Yet if you’re into hard, challenging puzzles, you might find oceanhorn a bit disappointing.

Interacting with items was fun: everything that could be hit or bumped into would wobble, which I found was super cute. You could even bump into people (as opposed to getting stuck by running into them), a little detail that I quite love in games. The way interaction with picking objects worked though was a bit annoying, since the attack button would suddenly serve the function of picking and tossing an object if you were near it; thus, if you were in the middle of slashing your sword away at an enemy and walked by a rock, you would end up getting the rock instead and thus getting hit by the enemy. That you could not walk off large cliffs to your early death was also quite nice and a little feature I was thankful for more than once. Be careful if you choose to go swimming in the ocean, though, as your character will quickly run out of stamina and drown.

The fighting system was quite easy to get a handle of, and I found myself thankful for the little auto-target while defending, at least most the times. Sometimes it would lock me into the wrong target though and leave me open to a second attacker I was more interested in defending myself from. I liked the way the character leveled up, but it was a bit odd that his leveling did not modify the way his hits affected monsters. Stuff that took 3 hits to kill would still take three hits on level 1 or level 5. It wasn’t too troublesome as the enemies are easy to defeat, but I thought it was a bit odd. Even though you can explore the islands, the game is rather linear, needing some interactions to happen first before you can unlock others.

The mini-bosses require a bit of strategy, but are also not overly challenging once you get the handle on them. Once again this makes it good for casual gamers and the younger crowd, but those seeking challenges might not have as much fun with it. In whole, the game offers you just about 10 hours of gameplay to finish it without any side-questing or aimless exploring, and some 4-6 hours more if you’re a completionist.

Oceanhorn plays quite nicely in older PCs and I kind of like the way things spawn on your screen as you come closer to them, slowly popping into the map with their little bouncy animation. It adds to the overall cartoony cuteness of the game. It also helps that it has an extremely small size (at ~380mb) so it’s quick to install and start playing it.

I heard some talk about crashes and bugs, but to be honest I did not experience any such. At most I experienced a bit of lag when video sections began or ended, but that was about it and it and it did not occur all the time. The game was truly fun and a delight to play. If you’re looking for a relaxing, casual RPG, I definitely recommend it!

 

Overall: Highly recommended!

The game is available on Steam

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