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Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas

For: iPhone   Also on: iPad

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Product: Oceanhorn | Developer: Cornfox & Bros. | Publisher: FDG Entertainment | Format: iPhone | Genre: Adventure | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1.2
Oceanhorn iPhone, thumbnail 1
Over the last few weeks, I've been playing 3DS adventure The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds for review. These past few days, playing Oceanhorn on my iPhone was like getting a serious case of déjà vu.

The similarities are everywhere and endless. From the obvious tropes - like a mute hero on a quest to uncover a handful of elemental gems - to the shamelessly specific - like finding four heart quarters to extend your life, or a race of fish-like ocean people.

But it's not just spinning sword attacks and mirror-clad shields. Oceanhorn's entire structure is cribbed from the Nintendo bible. You'll wander about lush, sun-drenched islands, before descending into dark, cavernous dungeons.

Drop in the ocean

These underground mazes have enemies to beat up, riddles to solve, keys to find, and a boss monster to defeat. As you play you'll find more items - like bombs and bows - that let you solve puzzles that you couldn't previously.

Those puzzles are often quite shallow and unsatisfying. There are a few that will test your wits, but most have you shunting boxes, finding pressure plates, or hitting obvious switches. Plus, some of the best brain-teasers are lifted wholesale from Link's adventures.

The combat is fun, though. Especially when you figure out how to use the shield to stun enemies and when you come across foes that require special tactics to defeat. The bosses, as few as they are, are great multi-step puzzles to solve (and survive).

But it's often teetering on the edge of being frustrating, finicky, and unwieldy. Sometimes you can blame the controls - which are generally excellent, but suffer the usual problems of touch-based input - and other times it's just unfair attack patterns.

Locking horns

Oceanhorn is at its best when you're on the surface. The overworld is absurdly good looking, and the soaring soundtrack - scored by famed Japanese composers Nobuo Uematsu and Kenji Ito - makes it feel like you're on a truly epic adventure.

It helps that Oceanhorn refuses to hold your hand, and rarely points you in the right direction. It's liberating to be left to explore and discover on your own. You have to talk to people, follow clues, and just go sailing to uncharted islands to advance the plot.

There's lots to do and loads of islands to explore, and you'll probably sink a good ten-or-so hours into the game, between chasing the three elemental powers and finishing sidequests.

Green-eyed monster

And, hey, it's not all borrowed from Zelda. The game's got an RPG-style experience system, whereby you level-up to earn new powers, and magical spells like the ability to spawn blocks, set things on fire, and freeze enemies in blocks of ice.

And the storyline - while cliched and largely unoriginal - does deviate from Nintendo's lore. Oceanhorn has giant mechanical monsters, a race of Owl people (close to Wind Waker's bird-esque Rito clan, but we'll give them this one), and no princesses in sight.

With its gorgeous world, clever boss battles, and grand sense of discovery, this long-awaited iOS adventure makes a valiant effort to mimic the Zelda formula. It's also one of the most polished and high quality productions on the App Store, and is worth nearly every penny of its price tag.

But its overly simplistic puzzles, clumsy combat, and uninspired storyline just go to show that nothing quite beats the real deal.
Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas
Reviewer photo
Mark Brown | 14 November 2013
The beautiful, adventurous, and lengthy Oceanhorn is a strong stand-in for The Legend of Zelda on iOS, but don't expect it to top the real deal in any respect
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Show: Latest | Oldest
Nov 2013
Post count:
Stephanie Langevin | 18:00 - 28 November 2013
Did I miss the conversation trigger for Graveyard island? I can't find it anywhere on my map. :( If anyone could point me in the right direction, that'd be great.
Nov 2013
Post count:
Chawklit | 03:53 - 19 November 2013
If anybody has help for passing Great Forest to get to the boss, that would be much appreciated. I got all the way to the place to drop the bomb and fight the boss, but my Ipad version has three blocks blocking the hole. Does anybody know how to move so I can get to the boss? I am on the Ipad Air, IOS 7.0.3 if that matters..

Aug 2010
Post count:
Funem | 21:39 - 14 November 2013
Purchased and like it so far. Seems like a few bits of Zelda mashed together. The sailing sections are very much like Phantom Hourglass. Graphics are nice, small bits of clipping but amazing considering its on a mobile device. Music is top notch as expected. Look forward to spending more time with this and Papa Sangre 2.

I hope that because of this game, more people go out and discover the worlds of Zelda and Link
Dec 2008
Post count:
klouud | 15:27 - 14 November 2013
Besides Infinity Blade 3 (I was a bit disappointed with IB3), this was my most anticipated game of the year... or at least as far back as I can remember.

I have only played up until docking at the 2nd island - but from what I have seen, this game is off the charts in terms of production quality. From the graphics, voice acting, cut scenes, controls, game mechanics, frame rate, and fun factor -- this is a grand slam.

Is it perfect? No -- no game is. But this is the only other game that I can think of besides Shadow of the Colossus, that even comes close to capturing the spirit of Zelda. I love that the game draws from multiple different genres and pulls inspiration from a wide variety of franchises in a successful way.

I think the best choice that the developers made was to base combat and game progression on skill rather than leveling up. I understand that leveling up is in the game - but as far as I can tell, this is not critical to game progression. Or at least grinding is not necessary to progress.

I think 8 is fair - but I would personally give the game a 9.

Great job guys!

Oct 2012
Post count:
@britishgaming | 14:07 - 14 November 2013
Hey Funem

You save your progress through the game every time you enter a new location or trip a checkpoint and they're very frequent. It works better when you can spend a chunk of time to clear a dungeon in one go, but it's fine for portable play.

In terms of variety to the areas, there are deserts, ice temples, water kingdoms, and small towns. It's not as diverse as a typical Zelda game - those have 8 dungeons and enormous worlds where this has about 5 dungeons if you're being very generous in your definition of the word, and fewer places to visit.

But hey, it's also like 10 times cheaper than your typical Zelda adventure. You've got to take that into account, of course.
Aug 2010
Post count:
Funem | 13:35 - 14 November 2013
@mr_baz. not strange, the size of the game can also give an indication of its complexity of the graphics and maps etc. For the complexity of the graphics in this game I was "expecting" a bigger files size as those graphics have to be held in there somewhere. The more graphics in the code the bigger the code, regardless of optimisation. Optimising code for iOS devices does not mean it will play any better it just makes better use of the hardware available. Bizarre comment, but it was also raised on another forum....

I personally don't care how anticipated it is, that's not a sign of how good it is (see Diakatana and Duke Nukem Forever for Anticipated and ultimately big fail games, for details)

All videos I have seen have the same graphics in different maps I wanted to know how good the story and gameplay were, not just how pretty it was. Not to much to ask for a game ?

Anyway, how are the save points handled, can you jump in and ut of the game as required ?

Jul 2011
Post count:
Divisionbell | 13:19 - 14 November 2013
So it's essentially Zelda on my phone...downloaded...
Nov 2013
Post count:
Shinra | 13:14 - 14 November 2013
Aw man. Is it iphone 4 compatible? I can't quite tell from the specs screen
Nov 2011
Post count:
mr_bez | 12:28 - 14 November 2013
"Was just about to purchase this when I saw the size of the game. Its less than 200mb."

Seems a truly bizarre comment to me. The content of a game isn't measured in megabytes.

I read this as a criticism on another forum and the dev responded to say that the file size was originally and they optimised it heavily, as iOS devices don't have expandable storage and space is at a premium. Would you rather they hadn't bothered and left it bloated?
Oct 2012
Post count:
@britishgaming | 12:10 - 14 November 2013
Hey s4ndm4n - yeah, it should have iOS 7 controller support, so it's ready when those controllers start shipping (not long now!)
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