Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas Review (Switch)

See the source image OK, I know what you are thinking...didn't they already review this game? And the answer is yes, but not on the Nintendo Switch. We wanted to take some time and test out this title again on Nintendo's hardware. Kyle reviewed this one originally, and now it's time to get my take on it. I did not read Kyle's review again before reviewing this myself, so lets see how close we both felt on Oceanhorn.

Keeping in mind originally this was a mobile title, this is insane to imagine paying this on a phone. So if you had and skipped out on any console version, I think you should go back, this doesn't feel like a mobile game at all to me. The developers definitely spent some extra time putting on the polish before porting it over. But i'm getting a little ahead of myself.

Let's start with the story first, here is the official description from the developers:

"Grow from a boy to a legend.

You wake up and find a letter from your father. He is gone...

The only lead is his old notebook and a mysterious necklace. What happened?

Explore the islands of Uncharted Seas, a world filled with many dangers, puzzles and secrets. Fight monsters, learn to use magic and discover ancient treasures which will help you on your quest. Use all your wits and skill to unravel the mysteries of the ancient kingdom Arcadia and sea monster Oceanhorn.

Oceanhorn combines captivating storytelling, breathtaking 3D visuals and exciting gameplay into one massive action adventure experience you will never forget.

Enjoy an incredible soundtrack from the best video game composers in the world: Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy) and Kenji Ito (Seiken Densetsu)."

Alright so let's see, silent protagonist? check. Sword and a shield? check. Sailing from island to island? check. Affinity to throwing pots and jars? check....wait a minute this sounds very familiar....but you know what? I'm ok with it. While some make say it's a knockoff or an imitation, I don't. You can be inspired by other aspects in other games but still provide enough legs and heart to make it your own. Oceanhorn does just that.

The game plays out across a series of islands that play out more like a unique dungeon experience each time. There are a variety of different puzzles on each of them that will require some back and forth for sure as you get new items and unlock new skills. To get from island to island you hop in your ship and can shoot some enemies and barrels and such to get more XP and gems. I jokingly said it has better naval combat than Black Flag on twitter...while it may not be better...I had more fun with it lol. Each island allows for a little bit of exploration to find some hidden areas and chests but for the most part you are clearly guided in a direction on each island of where to go, now whether or not you can complete the island with what you have currently is a different story. As you progress through the game you unlock other weapons, items and spells to help you along the way. The button placement for me took a little getting used to, I would find myself throwing bombs alot when I meant to attack with my sword. But overall not a big deal to work with!

The puzzles are definitely a big focus in this game. While at the beginning hours they are relatively simple and just require some back and forth they do get a little more difficult towards the latter half. I am not entirely sure if they are really harder or more just obscure to figure out/find. Boss battles were pretty easy as is most of the combat in the game, while not really challenging it made for a fun and lighthearted experience. The game overall takes around I'd say 8-10 hours depending on how much exploration or how many side quests you go after.

Graphics are cartoony but well done. While there is lack of facial animation and such, for a downloadable indie title, I think it's very good. There are clearly different environments on different islands and doesn't get too repetitive with the visuals except in caves sometimes. Most of my gameplay was done in handheld mode and I can say it was flawless. I did not have any "chugging" or lag or frame rate drops at all. Which I applaud the developers for taking the time to really make this the best experience they could. Playing it docked on the big screen does show a little more how some of the animation is a little rough, but overall nothing to be concerned about.

The music in this game is a major highlight. They had some really talented folks working on it and it shows. At certain points its whimsical and light and other points dark and epic which fits the tone of the game very well. Definitely stands out as a great soundtrack in recent memory for myself within games.

All in all I think this is a great summer time pick up for some fun. Plus at it's $15 price point, you really can't go wrong! So if you are down for some exploration and some high seas action, I recommend giving Oceanhorn a whirl! With the sequel already in the works, grab this one today!

Oceanhorn was reviewed using a Switch code provided by the publisher. You can read additional information about PSVG’s  review policy on our disclaimer page here.

Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas (PS4) Review

[et_pb_section admin_label="section"][et_pb_row admin_label="row"][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_text admin_label="Text" background_layout="light" text_orientation="left" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid"] The action-adventure genre is, perhaps, the most packed genre in video games. Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas attempts to carve a niche for itself in that genre by pulling at your nostalgic heartstrings. You can see and feel the inspiration from past genre titans in the gameplay, story, and art design. Does Oceanhorn stand on the shoulders of giants to reach new heights or crumble under the pressure of being a relic of the past? Let’s take a look...

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Oceanhorn begins with you taking control of the hero character and getting a brief introduction to the world. You are on an island with a hermit in the middle of the Uncharted Seas. Soon after, you learn your Father has set out to slay the ancient beast Oceanhorn and has not returned. Thus begins your adventure to learn more about your past, the history of the Uncharted Seas, and about the sea creature named Oceanhorn. You find a trusty sword and shield (your Fathers of course) and soon begin to sail island to island to piece together the puzzle of the story. One aspect that surprised me was how much time you spend on your boat in this game, and how valuable that time is. While traveling there is a mini-game of sorts where you utilize a gun to take out sea creatures, mines, and floating boxes all the while earning EXP, coins, and hearts. It is a nice way to recover your character and pass the time as you travel between islands. Additionally, every island you arrive at gives you 3 different challenges to complete. You can complete the challenges on any island to receive credit, but how they are presented almost feels like a “challenge of the day” from a mobile game. I do not see them as bad, as they often gave me ideas of different ways to interact with the game, and they give you EXP to level up, but how the challenges are presented felt unnatural.

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Beyond the initial introduction, the story is straightforward. It does manage to instill a bit of charm, but for the most part, the narrative is a serviceable way to get you from the beginning of the game to the end. There were no huge twists, surprises, or anything unexpected that happened. The Hero character you play is silent, but there is some voice acting in the game for the narration as well as other characters you meet along the way. While I appreciate what the voice acting is trying to do, it is a bit below par when comparing it to voice acting in other games. It may be unfair to compare Oceanhorn to AAA games in the voice acting realm, but they went for it, and I appreciate the gumption; but if they decided to continue with voice acting in Oceanhorn 2, I am hoping for a step up in quality.

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The rest of the sound design for the game is excellent. The songs and theme are memorable enough that I have caught myself humming the theme while I sit at work. Playing the game with headphones is also a treat as you can really pick out the subtly of the pieces, many of which I missed when just playing the game through my soundbar. The soundtrack is dynamic, heartfelt, and poignant. It has not moved me as much as some of the great video game soundtracks, but I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and scope of the score.

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One of the most amazing things about Oceanhorn is the art design. While definitely not a graphical powerhouse, the game still looks solid. This is especially true when you consider the current game is a port of an iOS game that came out in November of 2013. Additional platforms and content has been added between the original release and this console iteration, but it still is impressive to look at. Crisp colors pop off the screen and help make the world feel lived in and exciting. The character models look like something you might find more at home on a Nintendo console rather than the PS4, but they fit the art style of the game. Similarly, the enemies fit their environments well and feel like a naturally occurring part of the world. The islands in the game are well designed and have their own personality and mood that is evident the moment you step foot onto them. Some are teeming with life and activity, others are barren and desolate, while others still are lush and green. While I wish this game was on Vita, the presentation on the PS4, despite a few shortcomings (most notably mouth movement during voice-acted parts) looks good.

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No matter how good the story, sound design, or art direction of a game are, they can be overshadowed by poor gameplay. Luckily, Oceanhorn transitioned seamlessly into the console space. The controls are snappy and intuitive. While picking up and throwing pots or rocks, I consistently hit the enemy I was aiming at, despite there being no lock on (as far as I am aware). Arrows regularly hit their mark, and bomb placement was almost always a breeze. The mechanism for casting magical spells took a minute to get used to as the game slows down and a cursor comes up allowing you to pick almost any item/enemy on screen to target. However, soon I was fluidly transitioning from blocking with my shield, to slashing with my sword, to shooting an arrow, to casting a spell, and back to blocking with my shield without a second thought. My only gripe with controls is that X is your button to interact, and sometimes a few items to interact with were really close to one another. This led to occasional climbing ladders I did not mean to, or opening doors to leave rooms I did not intend to leave yet. The game takes you through all of the familiar tropes of the genre, including puzzle solving, exploring dungeons, chatting with townsfolk, discovering side-quests to pursue, and of course, fishing. Overall, no matter the situation, the gameplay makes your hero feel in control and on top of his game.

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Oceanhorn does most things well (music, overall gameplay, exploring, having a narrative thread to follow), but there are a few things that could use a bit of improvement. I wish the map in the game had been a bit better. Island navigation is not too difficult, but when you are trying to 100% an island, being able to look at the entire island map would likely be helpful. Maybe there is a way to do it in the game, but I did not discover it. Also, leveling up is a bit anti-climactic. You get cool new abilities, especially later, but how you level up is automatic. I wish I had a bit more agency in what skills or abilities I could level up. Finally, there are boss fights in the game, but I found most of them to be pretty easy. I am guessing these would have been far more difficult with touch controls on mobile, but I only ever died to a boss once (that I can recall) and most of the fights were pretty one sided. Overall these nitpicks did not really detract from my enjoyment of the game, but I think they could have helped take my enjoyment to the next level

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Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas is a good first entry into the action-adventure genre. The game is inspired by some of the great games in history, and while there are some chinks in the armor, I am glad I partook in the adventure.

*A copy of Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas was provided to Play Some Video Games by the Publisher for the purpose of this review.*

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