It’s plain to see that Oceanhorn was a transparent attempt to capitalise on the popularity of the Legend of Zelda series by bringing a clone to the burgeoning mobile market. Whilst it’s certainly uninspired as a result, taking game design cues from the absolute best is enough to carry the experience, even on home consoles.
A range of vibrant locales conceal hidden treasures that beckon your attention, aided by a soundtrack that arouses a sense of adventure.
Puzzles are, for the most part, incredibly simple and comprised of pushing blocks to build paths and bridges, as well as depressing switches to open doors. Whilst there’s very little variation on the formula, they’re enjoyably nostalgic in their simplicity and satisfying to solve nonetheless.
On occasion you’ll require an additional tool or spell to complement your smarts, though the game won’t overtly point that out, instead letting the player get stuck until they decide to move on and come back later. It’s a brave approach in today’s watered-down market that doesn’t go unappreciated as the world unfurls at your increasingly powerful hands, even if it does make for a lot of toing and froing.
These upgrades also lend a hand in combat, though it’s unlikely you’ll be in any great need of their help. The stamina-based, sword and shield system lacks nuance, as a majority of enemies can be defeated simply by running up to them and spamming attack; for a few exceptions you’ll simply need to block incoming blows and counter on repeat, no exact timing necessary. Once you have the ice spell and are able to stop foes in their tracks for an easy one-hit kill, any semblance of challenge disappears.
Oceanhorn was already a bit of a mixed bag, but some bizarre inconsistencies really cement the impression of a muddled development process.
Bashing enough baddies - preferably the ugly goblin-things that sound like Gruntilda from Banjo-Kazooie - and completing enough objectives will net you the experience to level up. The process is automated, taking choice out of your hands and resultantly offering rewards that are just as often pitiful as powerful. If we’d been able to unlock the ability to fire beams of light from our sword earlier, the combat might have done more for us.
Oceanhorn was already a bit of a mixed bag, but some bizarre inconsistencies really cement the impression of a muddled development process. You can’t fall long distances, except when it’s convenient to the game’s design; swimming usually leads to drowning as your stamina drains rapidly, except when the game wants you to swim somewhere; on occasion certain blocks can’t be pushed over certain tiles, despite identical ones having just done so without issue. Perhaps most annoyingly, fishing presents an insane difficulty spike that literally makes attempting to catch a botfish more deadly than battling the titular Oceanhorn.
Despite its many nagging flaws, we ultimately had a lot of fun with Oceanhorn. When you stand yourself on a pedestal by drawing direct comparisons to one of gaming’s premier attractions, you invite scrutiny, and whilst FDG Entertainment’s adventure doesn’t quite stand steadfast in the face of it, it doesn’t fall.