Oceanhorn ™ Review

By , on November 19, 2013
Last modified 10 years, 6 months ago

Oceanhorn ™
Download on the AppStore
4 out of 5


  • Breathtaking visuals.
  • Over 10 hours of adventuring across multiple islands.
  • Puzzle, action, and sailing elements harmonise well.
  • Did we mention those visuals?


  • It lifts most of its ideas and visual motifs directly from Zelda.
  • Combat can feel a little haphazard and unbalanced.


Though it's destined to forever squat in Zelda's shadow, Oceanhorn acquits itself on its own term as a flawed but heartfelt tribute to a beloved series.

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It's fair to say that many action-RPGs released in the last 15 years have been influenced in some way by the Zelda franchise. However, few games wear their inspiration as proudly as Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas.

Stop me if you've heard this one: You're a young boy with a mysterious backstory who is sent on a perilous quest. You're armed with a sword, shield, and bow, and must explore forests, deserts, and caverns in search of keys to unlock doors. Along the way you'll chop up tufts of vegitation to uncover power-ups, collect heart fragments to boost your health, and hack your way through a procession of re-spawning beasties in an effort to save the kingdom.

Anyone familiar with the Zelda franchise should be feeling a powerful sense of deja-vu about now. And there's no denying that Oceanhorn lifts a lot of its fundamental mechanics directly from classic Nintendo series

However, spend a few minutes playing Oceanhorn and you'll realise that this isn't some knock-off reskin which has been cobbled together in an afternoon. On the contrary - Oceanhorn has been in production for over two years, a fact evidenced by the game's breathtaking visuals.

The world of Oceanhorn, which spans numerous islands dotted over a rolling expanse of sea, has clearly been lovingly conceived and rendered, then buffed to a glorious mirror shine. We'd even go so far as to say it looks better than new Zelda release A Link Between Worlds.

However, while it does provide a deep and satisfy serving of RPG goodness, Oceanhorn doesn't quite reach the dizzy heights of it muse in terms of gameplay.

Over Oceanhorn's five chapters, you'll have to navigate your surroundings without setting waypoints or markers. While we enjoyed the freedom to roam the islands and Windwaker our way across the water in our own sailboat, you may occasionally find yourself lost among the multi-tiered geography, unsure of your next objective.

The movement controls are fairly streamlined, with a single joystick and face buttons setup directing the action. It does the job, though it's definitely easier to maneuver around the environment on the larger iPad screen.

Likewise, combat is reasonable efficient, though not without its own niggles. Many enemies bumble harmlessly around the world waiting for you to swing your sword loose an arrow or two. However, armed baddies like goblins can be very tricky to kill cleanly, costing you hearts and time. To make matters worse, they respawn whenever you leave an area, and must often be dispatched numerous times over. Luckily, any annoyance you feel as a result of untimely deaths is offset by the generous checkpointing.

The puzzles which characterise the underworld are pretty rudimentary, and mostly involve re-arranging blocks and flicking switches. There are some neat fire and water puzzles later on, and your bow skills begin to play a role solving problems, but nothing that will tax experienced adventurers.

Ignoring it influences, Oceanhorn is a thoughtfully built and beautifully realised game which offers over 10 hours of exploration and adventure. That said, you can't ignore the fact that Oceanhorn pulls visual motifs and gameplay elements directly from another franchise. While the visuals are almost a step-up from the source, other elements don't survive the voyage in tact, and lack the spark of originality and imagination which made Zelda so timeless.

In the end, however, Oceanhorn is probably as close as we're going to get to playing a Zelda game on iOS, at least for the forseeable future. What all is said and done, it acquits itself on its own terms: as a flawed but heartfelt tribute to a beloved series.


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