Oceanhorn is… well… let’s cut to the chase: Oceanhorn is Zelda on mobile. Or at least as close as you’ll get to Zelda till Nintendo sort themselves out.
I’m just like you. Waiting for the next Zelda game so we can finally have an excuse to buy a WiiU. Except that it’s been a loooooong time and so looking about for a quick replacement, Oceanhorn seems like a good fit. But is it worth the money?
Oceanhorn Review: Right off the bat, I was really impressed with Oceanhorn. Everything that happened in the first hour was great, Zelda-style RPG fun. I’d got mixed expectations whilst getting ready for this Oceanhorn Review. On the one hand, I really love Zelda games and it was wonderful to have the opportunity to have a pick-me-up till the next game. On the other, I really love Zelda games and the problem with imitations, particularly those on lesser systems, is that they are facing a brutal judgement.
Graphics, World and Level Design (and music)
The Oceanhorn graphics are wonderful – you could be forgiven that you’re replaying Windwaker. Particularly once you’re off on the boat, you’ll feel a shock of familiarity. The UI design is great – a triumph for how to convert great RPG UI to mobile. Slick, simple and handles all the information neatly. I was impressed and felt the nagging need to fill out my inventory and get fishing ASAP.
The world design is strong, but this is where my problems begin – Oceanhorn is, if anything, too similar to Windwaker and the other Zelda games. I feel that the production team had a giant screen with Windwaker on loop, so that it all looked the same. It was when I was between islands, guiding my (controlled) boat, that I started to doubt Oceanhorn. I felt uneasy about being served up an exact copy. It is a wonderful, beautiful and faithful copy, but a copy nonetheless.
“We looked at the iOS market and we could clearly see there wasn’t a decent Zelda clone, or this kind of action RPG on the marketplace back then in 2010.” – Antti Viljamaa (Oceanhorn developer)
Dungeons are everywhere, of course and they are resplendent with box puzzles, buttons, water levels, spiky traps and baddies. The usual. The lighting here is really nice and the underground atmospherics are fun – combined with the famous sound/music design (Kenji Ito and Nobuo Uematsu).
Controls and Combat
The controls were okay, not perfect, but good enough to get through (though tell me that when I’m trying to aim a bomb at a skeleton and instead my sweaty thumb sends me down a step and the bomb goes off in my hand). The combat is interesting enough, with surprisingly aggressive enemies testing your shield and sword skills pretty early. The one-button attack is a little tiring, but hey, you’re playing on mobile. Most of my game time was spent picking up stones/containers and using this deadly missile arsenal as a vanguard to my approach into almost any situation. Hey, don’t judge, it works.
The boss fights are fun and difficult enough for the seasoned player to warrant a little bit of a challenge.
The gameplay is the live or die element to any game and with Oceanhorn, there is a big tick there. The world is interesting, pretty and fun to explore (though the dungeons and enemies can get a little repetitive and doesn’t have the depth of tactics seen in some Zelda titles). The puzzle solving is sparse, uncomplicated and serves to break up areas. Again, nothing ground-breaking. Momentum and level-gaining is swift and it’s refreshing to get a sword and shield without chasing rabbits or something like that.
If you’re a Zelda fan (like me) and you’re up for a clone like this (not really), then you’ll love Oceanhorn. It’s a faithful stand in for Zelda on mobile. The price tag is justified and it’s nice not to have any in-app-purchases in your face, blocking the way. I’m looking forward to playing more Oceanhorn, but there is a niggling doubt in my mind. It’s that this experience will be limited to what I’ve already run and slashed through in Windwaker all those years ago.
In a world with so many games and so little time, can we afford to go over old ground like this?
Big Plus Points:
- Very faithful clone of Zelda games. Love Zelda? Love Oceanhorn.
- Sprawling dungeons full of everything that dungeons should have.
- Challenging enemies who are aggressive and can be difficult to beat.
- Decent value for money if you can’t wait for Nintendo to sort it out.
- Powerful and long-lasting RPG on mobile.
Big Minus Points:
- Too similar to Windwaker to warrant genuine engagement.
- Dungeons can be samey.
- You might feel that you’ve been over this ground before. You have.