Game Title: Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas
Developer: Cornfox & Bros, FDG Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Download: 200 MB
Availability: Digital (Europe, North America)
PSTV Support: Yes
If you’ve ever been looking for a Zelda-like game on the PlayStation Vita, you won’t find a whole lot out there. There’s Adventure Time: Secret of the Nameless Kingdom, but not much else. Not until this past month, anyways. It’s been a long time coming, but a critically acclaimed Zelda-like adventure game has come to proper handhelds in the form of the PlayStation Vita.
A game with its own sequel on the way, and most compared to The Legend of Zelda:Wind Waker, here is my review of the PS Vita and PlayStation TV version of Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas!
The story revolves around a young boy, whose father left on a quest across the known world some time before the events of the game. In an effort to find his lost father, he sets sail on a ship to the islands of the world, aiming to recover elemental islands lost during a great Catastrophe and retract his father’s steps until he finds him.
The plot of the game doesn’t show itself in a very cinematic fashion but once or twice during every “chapter” of the adventure. Most of the story is talking with NPCs regarding places you’re visiting and what your current objective is. It ramps up towards the end, and very in tune with the story showcasing of most Zelda titles, but nothing more than that.
Oceanhorn is a 3D Action-Adventure game presented at an isometric angle. As you travel through the various areas and dungeons, you’ll be exploring, attacking enemies, and solving puzzles.
Progressing through the game is exploration and location-based. When you start, you’ll only have a couple different islands you can visit. As you explore these islands, you gain access to hidden bottles that unlock new islands. You then explore those islands and, while some of these islands are completely optional, eventually find where you need to go for each of the sacred emblems you’re trying to restore and collect.
Exploring is simple. You roam around areas, talk to NPCs, attack enemies, and solve puzzles. Some islands are towns full of NPCs and Shops while others are solely dungeons full of enemies and puzzles to solve. NPCs will hint you towards what’s going on and where you need to go, such as stating that you need a certain item to access a certain island’s center and that island containing a note about where you might find said item. It’s all about exploration, finding hidden areas, leaving no stone unturned, and all that jazz.
As such, you can expect about as much difficulty in exploration as you can with a Zelda title, but a little less so. When the game starts, you unlock the first town and are just given “Go find the Earth Artifact”. None of the NPCs in said town even mention said Artifact and I found it by accident by saving an NPC about 3 or 4 islands later after doing a few hours of exploration in finding bottles that unlocked said islands.
Once you realize that’s how the game progresses, you’re pretty well-prepared, but the game doesn’t really tell you that. You just go at it and find it yourself.
Combat and Puzzles are about as you’d expect from a game trying to mimic Zelda. You do straight slashes in front of you with your sword, can hold the attack button for a charged swing attack, and can use items like bombs and arrows to attack far-away enemies. It’s pretty much exactly like 2D Zelda games aside from magic spells you learn for fighting far-off enemies and solving puzzles like using a fire spell to light torches.
Puzzles are very simple. Push blocks out of the way to move forward. Push blocks onto switches to open doors. Bomb cracked walls to find hidden chests with keys. Use keys to open doors. Find Master Key to open Boss Room. All taken from Zelda, and even on the simpler side of Zelda. You won’t find anything remotely difficult like the shrines from Breath of the Wild here.
Bosses are the biggest note-worthy point of the game. All of them have a pattern to them, requiring you to damage them or parts of them before the core is revealed for you to attack. These start off very easy, but will quickly and easily get hard when you get to the 2nd of the 4 major bosses of the game. I had to think pretty hard about how to tackle each boss once the difficulty of the 2nd hit.
Despite there only being 4 major bosses in the game, it lasts a good while. Each of the 3 Artifacts took me about 3-4 hours to find, and getting to the Last Boss is pretty quick. I would gauge a single run through the game to be around 12-15 hours. Not bad considering the Vita version is $12.99, cheaper than the Steam/PC version.
Nothing too major to say about controls. Oceanhorn is compatible with the PlayStation TV, but contains no special controls for when you’re using it on the micro-console. No touch controls. No motion controls. So, you don’t need to worry about having special alternatives if you want to play it on the big screen.
Moving around is done with the Left Analog Stick and the camera can be panned around with the Right Analog Stick. The D-Pad is used to cycle items if you don’t want to have to go to your inventory every time you wish to change your sub-weapon . The R trigger is used to raise your shield.
Finally, the face buttons. X interacts with objects like chests and crates. Square is used for sword attacks. Triangle is used for casting spells. Finally, Circle is used for your sub-weapon, like throwing bombs or shooting off arrows.
It’s pretty simple. The only awkward thing about the controls is the fact that the Left Analog Stick is used for navigating the pause menu, rather than the D-Pad. Not a huge deal or anything, but something you may not be used to.
Visually, I don’t have any complaints. There are some jagged edges here and there, but on the Vita, you can barely even tell they’re there. Even on the PlayStation TV, it looks pretty good. I don’t really have any complaints as the game showcases the art style really well.
Performance is also something I have no real issues with. The initial load time for the game is pretty long, being over a minute in length. Once you get the game loaded, though, the longest loading sequence will be around 4-5 seconds. Frame-rate stays nice and smooth for the entire game as well, so there’s really no reason to complain. The developers took the extra time to optimize the game and it really shines because of it.