Game Review: Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas (Switch)

I think this is the first time that I review a game on multiple platforms. I recently reviewed “Oceanhorn” for the Vita at our sister site Vita Player, and found it to be one of the highlights of the year for the Sony handheld. The Nintendo Switch is an altogether different beast, with ever-increasing first-party support. So, just how well does “Oceanhorn” stack up? Let’s find out.

It seems like “Oceanhorn” is finally home on the Switch, as the action-adventure game is unashamedly inspired by the Zelda franchise (and Windwaker in particular). It has been a long road for it from a humble beginning on iOS to a home console edition. I’m happy to report, however, that a good game is still a good game, regardless of where it’s published, and this particular monster continues to be a joy to play.

The story, while a bit cliched at times, makes no bones about the fact that it borrows heavily from the beloved Nintendo formula: you are a youngster who’s been abandoned by your father (and whose mother has gone on) and must find relics to help save the world from Oceanhorn, a monster from the deep sea. It sounds derivative, but that’s like saying all AC/DC albums sound the same; it really doesn’t make the experience any less enjoyable.

Derivative sounds too harsh. I think “lovely tribute” is more appropriate.

Presentation is gorgeous: graphics look amazing, colors are vibrant and pop off the screen. Publishers FDG said that this is the definitive edition of “Oceanhorn” and it’s hard to argue: 1080p at 60fps docked, and you can take it on the go as well? The engine is incredibly smooth, specially considering that, as FDG said, it’s an engine they built for this game from the ground up. There are no framedrops, loading is almost instantaneous… I really can’t praise the technical side of things enough.

The music, provided by legendary composers Nobuo Uematsu and Kenji Ito, is stunning. It really makes you not want to have to mute the game. It sounds even better on a big home theater system. The voice acting is top notch, and my fiancee (who played the first hour or so while I watched) kept reacting to it with exclamations such as “how sad!” and “that’s great!”.

The meat of what makes “Oceanhorn” good is the gameplay, though: hacking and slashing through enemies, solving clever puzzles and shooting things from your boat are all a blast. I found puzzles to be just hard enough to be challenging without being unfair, and while I wish there was more ways to upgrade and customize my character, I do believe it’s a bit of nit-picking.

The game looks gorgeous and it runs as smooth as butter, even at 1080p.

The makers advertise a 10+ hour story, but you could easily get 15 hours out of this game if you are in the exploring mood (like I was), so at $15 (and its equivalent in local currency for other regions), it’s really good value for money, too.

It seems like I can’t really find something negative about “Oceanhorn”, but alas, I did: in the transition from portable game to home console game, the lettering didn’t make the jump quite as gracefully. For both my fiancee and I, it was difficult to read what characters were saying sometimes, but that was helped mostly by voice acting. Signs with instructions were a bit more challenging, though, and while we usually squint to look at things from afar anyway, we had to do it even more when playing the game.

This minor gripe aside, though, I believe “Oceanhorn” is a lovely love-letter to a franchise that we all adore with rose-tinted glasses. I honestly think this is a better game than more than a few of the official entries in the “Zelda” series, and that’s saying something. I know we have “Breath of the Wild” for the full “Zelda” experience on Switch, and “Kamiko” for when we want it to go on a diet… but somehow, I think “Oceanhorn” fits right in there: lighthearted, enjoyable, gorgeous to look at and fun to play.

A must-own for any fans of the genre.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: