Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas caused a splash when it dropped on iOS back in 2013. It was plain to see that the game was an almost cut and paste rip, at least visually, from The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker, but it’s unfair to call Oceanhorn a clone. To me, ‘Clone’ is a pejorative term reserved for the scores of cheap knock-offs occupying iOS, Android and Greenlight. Oceanhorn is better than that. It’s a love letter to the Zelda series that brings similar, high quality design practices and gameplay values to gamers on iOS and PC. It doesn’t quite sail into the same realm as Nintendo’s flagship series but it’s the closest another developer has ever come.
There’s not much worth knowing about Oceanhorn‘s story, it’s much the same as any Zelda game – so, as deep as a puddle and just about as interesting .The fabled sea monster called “Oceanhorn” has come back to your island, leaving your father to go fight it while you sleep. You find yourself alone with nothing but your mothers magical pendant to guide you, and off you pop on a Windwaker-style adventure in your dinky little boat- which, thankfully, doesn’t talk this time.
You’ll sail to new islands, each inhabited by people with interesting stories to tell, explore vast dungeons, and encounter creatures that are most definitely not ripped off from the Zora or Rito people.
Equipped with your sword and shield, you’ll take on dangerous foes and some surprisingly well designed boss monsters. Combat isn’t as tight as the Zelda games but it’s an admirable impersonation, especially for a game that has made its way over from iOS. Controls can be a bit finicky and loose at times but they are otherwise fine, feeling just as good with the mouse and keyboard as they do with a gamepad.
The developers try their hardest to conjure up the same sense of adventure that can be found in A Link to The Past and Windwaker, and for the majority of the game they succeed. It’s unlikely you will forget that you are playing a game very heavily based on a well-known franchise, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.
The game doesn’t hold your hand, opting to leave you wander off in your own direction with nothing but the words of other people to guide you’re. You are free to travel around and explore, neglecting the main story, if you so choose.
Diving in to the meat of the game has you kill easy monsters in deep dungeons, solve simple puzzles, and collect elemental powers (where have we seen that before?). It’s fairly standard stuff that even the Zelda franchise has dined out on for far too long. There’s nothing particularly outstanding about any of Oceanhorn‘s action but its richly crafted, sun-kissed worlds are immersive and fun to explore. Ironically, for a game based around traversing large bodies of water, sailing isn’t that fun. In fact, it’s a bit dull – a complaint that was frequently directed at Windwaker, also. Any frustrations inspired by the mediocre sailing will at least be washed away by Oceanhorn‘s gorgeous soundtrack.
Audiovisual presentation is an area where Oceanhorn zips past its, rather sparse, competition. A beautiful world-class composer crafted soundtrack and pretty landscapes are destined to keep a smile on your face and a tune in your head.
In truth, Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas can be a bit shallow, but it’s hard to dislike a game so lovingly crafted – and with such respect for the source material from which it was created. Temper your expectations and you’ll find an engrossing adventure that pays homage to one of gaming’s greatest, although it never manages to step out of its shadow.