TITLE: Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas
DEVELOPER: Cornfox & Brothers
RELEASE DATE: March 17, 2015
In 2013, Cornfox & Brothers released an adventure title for iOS devices called Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas. Some immediately compared the game to The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker and said the game was a blatant rip-off of the Zelda franchise. Others hailed it as a love-letter to Nintendo’s wildly-popular series and said that it offered a refreshing take on many different things. Unfortunately, though, the game remained only on iOS devices. There were various rumors of the game making its way to Android, but these were generally quelled given enough time. However, earlier this year it was announced that the game would be seeing a fully-enhanced release for the PC via Steam, and here I am today reviewing it!
I tend to agree with those that view the game more as a love-letter to Nintendo’s famous series. While it would be impossible to deny that Wind Waker had an impact on this game’s development, it’s apparent that its creators strove to create an original story and craft their own unique, living world. Oceanhorn is set in a largely-aquatic world, sometime after the distant fall of a great kingdom called Arcadia in a war against an Archmage that was so fierce that entire continental bodies were altered permanently. The Archmage, who drew a powerful dark energy from the core of the world to create powerful creatures ended up creating behemoth-like monsters of incredible power. In the centuries since, most of them gradually died off, but one remained: a powerful beast called Oceanhorn.
The player takes control of a young man whose father disappeared one night in order to answer Oceanhorn’s call. He left his son in the care of a hermit friend of his who has since taken care of him and trained him subtly for his role in life. After learning the basics on the island and hearing the story of Arcadia and the hero’s need to recover ancient artifacts with the power of the gods in order to find a way to subdue Oceanhorn, they will set sail on a ship that they can use to explore the vast seas of the world.
Travel in the seas of the game is actually closer in style to that seen in Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. The player has a sea chart that they can use to plot a course to known islands, and even though they can see other landmasses as they sail, they cannot visit them until they learn officially of their existence from an NPC or something else that mentions them. Effectively, speaking with all the NPCs and interacting with any journals, letters, or anything else is very helpful because this will often open up the location of several islands, some optional and others required. For example, before you can even visit the first major temple, you’ll have to go to Bomb Island, complete a dungeon there (complete with a boss and everything), and then visit a second island for clues to where the dungeon itself is actually located.
Items in the game are certainly inspired by Zelda. The player begins the game with four heart containers and procures more either through finding complete heart containers or collecting heart-pieces in sets of four to create a new container. Other collection mechanics can be found in the game as well, such as finding bloodstones to give to a certain NPC in exchange for something special he has to offer.
Despite the fact that some reviewers claimed the puzzles were too simple and boring in the iOS version, in this Steam release of the game I found them to be interesting and fun. The game has its fair share of block puzzles, but also has some that involve lighting torches, arranging objects in certain orders, finding hidden paths, and much more. Often I was required to think outside the box rather than just run in and make rash decisions.
Cornfox & Brothers has stated that this PC version is more than just a port – it is an enhanced version. The game scales beautifully to modern resolutions like 1366×768, full 1920×1080, or even 4K. The music is very high quality and I often found myself humming along to various tunes as I played. The one major gripe I had with the game is that I felt that the port was a bit poorly optimized, running at a frame-rate I found quite inconsistent given the performance I get (100+ FPS) in most modern games at fully maxed settings. I ended up having to run the game as a full-screen window in order to actually get Vsync to work and even with that, the frame-rate was not what I’d like (but still higher than 30, so not choppy really). However, this was a pre-release copy of the game, and this seems to have been improved in a recent update (though it still isn’t perfect). Beyond this, there were a few bugs that required me to reload my save file because they broke the game, so hopefully these, too, will get corrected.
In the end, despite the few flaws the game has, I find this title to be quite enjoyable and a refreshing game to play. Honestly, it would fit perfectly within the Zelda universe and is a great way to get that type of play experience on your modern computer.
Would I recommend this game? Certainly! If you’re looking for a fun adventure game to enjoy at your own pace, and you are a fan of the Zelda franchise, you owe it to yourself to pick this game up today!
FINAL SCORE: A-