Developer(s) – Cornfox & Bros.
Publisher(s) – FDG Entertainment
Director – Heikki Repo
PEGI – 7
First released on iOS in 2013, subsequently brought to consoles last year and featuring music composed by Squaresoft veterans Kenji Ito, and my personal favorite video game composer Nobuo Uematsu, Oceanhorn borrows a great deal from some of the best franchises in gaming, such as Legend of Zelda and Baldur’s Gate, and brings them together in one very satisfying and critically acclaimed gaming experience. Even after playing a few hours of Oceanhorn, I could tell that this is most definitely one of the greatest indie games I would have ever played to date, and something I would recommend to any fan of adventure games or RPGs.
Graphics – 8.5/10
The game’s visuals are vibrant, colorful, diverse, and though outdated compared to most mainstream releases, they are conceptually brilliant. Though in most aspects of this game, the most obvious influence had been The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, I found myself being able to identify a great of conceptual design deviating away from the latter in places such as house basements, which have a heavy steampunk feel to them reminiscent of the game’s main antagonist. Dungeons throughout the game, again much like the Legend of Zelda series, do extremely well to stand out amongst each other, and more than make up for the overworld areas, which can seem quite repetitious after a while.
Gameplay – 9/10
Oceanhorn is an isometric top-down adventure RPG, similar to Baldur’s Gate; Dark Alliance, but set in a much more open world than the latter. There is a heavy emphasis on exploration, combat, character development, and dungeon crawling; like Wind Waker, it also features travel by sea along with combat elements thrown in during these sequences too. There is plenty to do in the game to keep players busy besides the main story, and the boss fights are challenging on quite a surprising level in my opinion; even the first boss was fairly difficult to contend with.
Controls – 10/10
I experienced no issues with the game’s controls whatsoever, as not only am I personally quite familiar with this in particular gameplay formula, but there have been countless isometric RPGs to have come and gone over the last 20 years, and it was to be expected that no issues would arise. The best thing about the controls, however, is how well two different styles of an adventure game, i.e Legend of Zelda and Baldur’s Gate, come together particularly well to form its own cohesive concept without presenting any issues with the controls.
Lifespan – 7.5/10
Overall, Oceanhorn can be made to last there about 16 to 20 hours, which for an indie adventure game is fairly impressive; especially considering that it started life as a smartphone game. I’ve found a lot of indie games to be short and sweet, such as Titan Souls and Xeodrifter, so a game like this to me, was a welcome breath of fresh air, and something that can have a great of time invested into it for those willing to explore it, which I personally always admire in any game at all.
Storyline – 7.5/10
The story follows a silent protagonist, whose father leaves the paternal home to traverse the Islands of the Uncharted Seas to seek and kill a giant sea monster known as Oceanhorn. The player character subsequently sets out to destroy Oceanhorn himself, and to discover what became of his father. It seems simple enough, but throughout, the character goes through an unprecedented amount of development, discovering things such as love and hardship throughout the way. It’s one of many ways that this game can be compared to the Legend of Zelda, and whilst I believe the character of Link has been further developed in a single game than what is present in this, it’s still a very solid effort in terms of the overall story.
Originality – 6/10
Most players familiar with adventure video games will have very little difficulty pointing out what influenced this title, as they are blatantly obvious from start to finish in nigh-on every aspect of it. However, all these ideas come together to form something, which I can find myself describing as unforgettable, to say the least. The elements of the games it borrows inspiration from are made to seem more like charms than rip-offs.
Overall, Oceanhorn, whilst it clearly borrows influence from other games, is in my opinion, the best indie experience of 2016; it’s satisfying to play and beautiful to look at, with a stellar soundtrack, an enjoyable gameplay formula, and a pleasantly surprising level of depth in its story. It’s certainly worth playing through at least once.