Most of the time the term rip-off is often one that is incorrect. PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale took ideas from Super Smash Bros but evolved the genre and added a few twists and Lords of the Fallen is a faster paced Dark Souls, which is a good attempt as it has plenty of polish. Some have even said this year’s acclaimed Overwatch has taken a lot of ideas from Team Fortress 2, but it is highly regarded as one of the best games of 2016 so far as it adds a cast of characters that gamers around the world have fallen in love with (literally).
However, Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas is something that can definitely be called a rip-off. It plays like Zelda, it looks like Zelda but it lacks the soul and story of the games that makes the original so special. It doesn’t add anything special to the formula. In fact, it is a frustrating version of Zelda with little direction, a useless map, and landscapes/dungeons that lack in visual design. It’s a shame for those who want a similar experience on PS4, Xbox One, and PC (as well as mobile platforms).
Before I become the Monster of the Uncharted Seas from the rage this game has given me, I’ll bring up the positives. First, the game looks pretty despite its basic aesthetic. The world and the characters look colorful, the monster designs are creative at times, and the clouds in the sky work with the look of the game when you’re in a boat. It looks like Zelda if Phantom Hourglass was remastered for Wii U. Second, is how each puzzle is designed. The use of blocks and different items throughout the game for the puzzles is fun, and as someone who usually dislikes puzzles, this is easily my favorite part of the game by far.
I have to admit something to you. I could only play this for 3 hours of what is typically an 8-10 hour game. The reason? Or…reasons? The map is frustratingly useless as it only tells you where enemies are and where treasure chests are. It doesn’t tell you where major locations are or where you’re supposed to go. The townsfolk sometimes tell you where to go, but at most sections, you’ll have no idea. The game design is mostly set up to confuse the player. The part which made me stop is when I received a bow-and-arrow and had to find where a prisoner was on the island. Despite looking around for about 20 minutes, I had no idea where he was and could not find him because it had been about three days since I last played Oceanhorn. At that point, I gave in my sword and shield. The map placement is all wrong, and most of the time, the game does not tell you where to go next. A navigation system would go a long way; there should be modern game design rather than delving into a griping retro design loop.
The combat system also feels like it’s from the games of old. You simply tap square to attack and use items, such as bombs or a bow and arrow to fight. That’s it for the first three hours, and if you can get further, you’ll be able to use fire and ice spells, as well as a spin attack. You can throw objects like rocks at enemies too. For an adventure game like this, the combat system is lacking. A spin move, an aerial move, or a hold attack, would have been a great addition, but as this game was originally released on mobile platforms, it’s understandable. For a console setting though, Oceanhorn needs a bit more on the bone. Another disappointing facet of Oceanhorn is that you can’t explore the world on the ship; instead you have to follow guided segments between one island to the other. It would be cool to find different islands along the way and find interesting loot to add to your hero.
While the character is running around like a headless chicken, trying to find where to go, the most repetitive music is playing in the background. It’s the same melody over and over again, and unlike Koji Kondo’s masterful soundtrack for The Legend of Zelda series, the music that plays during dungeons and land exploration, while charming at first, gradually becomes aggravating. The only part of the soundtrack that is pleasant to listen to over and over again is the overture theme for ocean exploration. The sound design is also awful. I’ll just let you know now. DO NOT PLAY THIS WITH EARPHONES! Sound effects play sharply and loudly on the right side, especially when your character dies. Plus, the scene in which the character opens a chest (which is totally ripping off Zelda, by the way) has the most uninspired music imaginable.
Another factor of Oceanhorn that is lacking is the writing. While, granted, I have only played three hours of the game, the writing is so bland during this section and drags on and on. It becomes so dull that it’s difficult to catch major story points, but if you need to, you can play back the cutscenes again from the menu. On top of the writing, the voice acting sounds so uninspired. Each delivery sounds flat and each character’s voice is like an archetype. In addition, the fact that the characters don’t move while they’re speaking during most cutscenes does not help.
Before going into Oceanhorn, I really wanted to love this game, but it’s mediocre at best due to its confusing game design, repetitive soundtrack, and uninspired combat system. It does have its charms though as the graphics are colorful and the puzzles are fun to solve. I will try to revisit the game again and will let you know if my opinion changes as more elements, such as the fire and ice spells, are added to the mix.
A PS4 Review Code for Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas by FDG Entertainment for the purpose of this review
[…] my previous review of Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas, I had trouble with this game. I reached a lot of roadblocks. Like a traditional J-RPG, a lot of […]