Oceanhorn Taps Zelda's Goodness in All-New iOS Adventure
The above-land islands are 3D wonders, rich in detail and shadow, yet are consistently built so that stairs always look the same. The water looks like a living cartoon, and sailing makes it seem as if you're covering real distance across the ocean. You can wield a sword with a wide and satisfyingly fast stroke. As long as you don't spend too much time in one place, the soundtrack is great, too.
Nov 18, 2013 5:00 AM PT
Oceanhorn by FDG Entertainment is available in the iTunes App Store for US$8.99.
Oceanhorn is a delightfully odd adventure game for iOS, at once fresh and yet heavily inspired by The Legend of Zelda, a classic title from the days when Nintendo ruled video gaming. Beyond evoking fond memories of exploring a wide open land while trying to save a princess, Oceanhorn is interesting because it's on iOS. It takes a relatively familiar type of game and reimagines it on our favorite touchscreen. Success?
Definitely. It's a fun diversion -- light, cartoonish, exploratory and epic. You play as a boy who wakes up in his island home to find a letter from his father who left to go fight the ancient and mechanical sea monster Oceanhorn. Plus, the boy's mother was lost somehow in a mystery of unfinished business between his father and monsters. Inevitably, the boy must follow in his father's footsteps, becoming stronger and smarter along the way.
As you might guess, you direct the boy to collect coins and battle various beasts, which provide you with gems to level up. You explore islands and uncharted seas in a sailboat, mostly free-form -- it's up to you to figure out puzzles, find keys, and keep the story moving. Of course, you also find ancient treasures and artifacts that help you out.
The above-land islands are 3D wonders, rich in detail and shadow, yet are consistently built so that stairs always look the same. The water looks like a living cartoon, and sailing makes it seem as if you're covering real distance across the ocean -- without wasting your time.
You can wield a sword -- when you find it -- with a wide and satisfyingly fast stroke, as well as pick up and move objects. There are keys to find and use, as well as switches and pressure-plate sorts of puzzles to figure out. As long as you don't spend too much time in one place, the soundtrack is great, too -- apparently created by Nobuo Uematsu (of Final Fantasy fame) and Kenji Ito.
The controls are really good -- for a touchscreen -- but hindered in that, well, they are designed around a touchscreen. To navigate, you can simply slide one finger around in the direction you want to go (default) or you can enable a virtual joystick. I much preferred the joystick, which let me be far more accurate with my intent to direct the boy.
To figure out what to do and where to go, you explore and talk to people. Pretty straightforward stuff, really, and overall, you can expect to play along the main storyline as well as go on side missions. For your $8.99, this will get you at least 10 hours of game play, and if you're the kind of person who must explore every inch of an imaginary world, well, you'll have a few extra hours of play ahead of you.
Oceanhorn is at once familiar and new. There are no serious surprises, but it's satisfying. Best yet, there are no in-app purchases -- no overt or subversive efforts to make you addicted so you spend more money just to keep going in the game. I feel compelled to support that model.
Oceanhorn delivers at least $8.99 worth of value, if not a bit more. For me personally, Oceanhorn evoked fond memories of exploration and battle through Zelda's Link hero, even as I realized that my patience and tenacity for this sort of game isn't nearly as strong as it used be -- Oceanhorn is a nice diversion that shows off yet another step forward in iOS gaming.