Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas - Switch Review

It is pretty easy to spot the inspirations behind the title Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas. This is a game that has found its way onto just about every platform available now, and of all of them the Switch seems like a suitably comfortable home, lending itself nicely to the pick-up-and-play mentality that Nintendo has been pushing for its hybrid home and portable console. It is a fun game that kind of feels like a portable Zelda title, even though Oceanhorn would have benefited from taking a few more chances along the way to better establish its own identity.

Shortly after your character awakens to find out that his father is gone, an old hermit helps to get our protagonist pointed in the right direction. The world is bright, colorful and initially feels very alive. The visuals are charming and there is a decidedly old school Zelda feel (obviously comparing games to Zelda is a bit harder to do these days given just how much Breath of the Wild reinvented that series). Our protagonist then must venture to seventeen different islands filled with new places to explore, enemies to battle and puzzles to solve along the way. The 2/3s top-downish perspective, the sailing in a tiny boat (which really reminds of Wind Waker) and the various types of puzzles again call back to classic Zelda titles with its mix of action and adventure.

When you see Oceanhorn through this light, it is easy to come away impressed. After all, there are far worse franchises to model your game after. However, while Oceanhorn gets the bones of things right, there are some issues to note as well. For one, the story of a father passing along his family's quest to his son is a nice enough story backdrop, but the tale itself never really becomes all that interesting. Now, in fairness I will state that while I generally like (and in some cases outright adore) the Zelda titles, their narratives seldom impress. That being said, our protagonist is just a 'kid' - no name, no real sense of identity even. He's just tagging along on the quest his father laid out to him.

This is probably Oceanhorn's biggest failing - that it never really carves out a true identity for itself. That the game shares this trait with our hero is kind of ironic really, because it holds them back from absolute greatness. That being said, there is still a great deal to like about the game. I do feel that the combat is responsive and works well, but probably could have used a bit more depth. It certainly works well, but it is not very challenging, and when combined with the leveling system, is a bit of a missed opportunity to introduce some additional mechanics along the way.

Instead you unlock arrows and bombs as the variety in action, which is okay on the surface, but really when you distill it is not terribly different from what The Legend of Zelda did decades ago. I do appreciate that you earn experience from completing puzzles and killing creatures. It encouraged me to stand and fight instead of simply running around and away from them. This RPG mechanic helps to unlock some handy perks along the way. This is where the leveling system probably misses a chance to do something really different and establish itself as something more unique than it is. Tantalizingly close with just the promise of some RPG elements, Oceanhorn would have benefited from some additional systems or techniques along the way.

While the visuals are solid enough, they are far from a technical marvel. You get some decent if unspectacular voice overs now and again, but the music is easily the best part of this presentation. It's beautiful, at times just a bit moody and compliments the game world wonderfully. It helps that the game controls really well most of the time, and that there is a pretty hefty amount of content to be had here. I found almost none of the puzzles overly challenging, though there are times that Oceanhorn could stand to give the player just a bit more guidance. It's a very open world, but as a result it is easy to miss some stuff along the way. Most of the islands were unique enough to warrant exploration, though a bit later in the game I did feel myself combating just a hint of 'been there and done that', which I suspect is due partially to the lack of depth in the combat.

It is almost impossible to play Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas and not think back to older Zelda titles, and by and large this game hits most of the necessary notes along the way. Charming visuals and music compliment a strong sense of exploration early in the game. There is a bit of shallowness in the mechanics that could have been expanded upon and would have fueled further hours of gameplay and helped Oceanhorn to establish a bit more of its own identity, and that is a shame. Like the protagonist, Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas is a fun experience, but it might not prove the most memorable over time.

Game Information

Nintendo Switch
Cornfox & Bros.
Cornfox & Bros.
Single Player
Other Platform(s):
PlayStation 4
PlayStation Vita
Xbox One

Provided by Publisher

Article by Nick


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