Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas Review
It's not unusual for games on the App Store to seem like complete clones of popular console games. While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, sometimes games just straight up copy the style of a popular title in the hopes that they'll gain the same sort of success as the source material. And while these carbon copies usually try to ape the original's style, they mostly fall flat. But now Oceanhorn, from FDG Entertainment, has come to the App Store with it's Legend of Zelda-like gameplay and Wind Waker-eque aesthetics. And folks, this adventure in Arcadia is just as good as any Hyrulean journey.
In Oceanhorn, you take control of a nameless silent protagonist whose father has gone off to parts unknown. The only things the father leaves is a letter explaining that he's running away from the ancient sea monster named Oceanhorn and a necklace. It's up to you to travel around the islands of the Uncharted Seas in order to find clues about your father's disappearance and how it's related to the monster Oceanhorn.
The comparisons to The Legend of Zelda can't be avoided. In fact, they're pretty much inviting them with the graphics, character models, gameplay, environments and even the item systems. Before you go calling this a rip-off, believe me when I say that this feels like the furthest thing from a heartless copy and is very much an homage to the Legend of Zelda series. Everything feels very similar to Link's adventures, but with a decidedly different approach that lets you know they appreciate the source material.
There are plenty of islands to explore in the Uncharted Seas and you'll find yourself wandering around, talking to townsfolk, fighting monsters and solving puzzles just the way Link would. Even the controls are almost the same, with one big "action" button that allows you to attack, interact with items and talk to people. A second button lets you use your items, such as shields and bombs. You'll be able to walk around using a virtual thumbstick located on the left side of the screen. The only thing that's really missing is the ability to roll, which is pretty much the bread-and-butter of movement in any Legend of Zelda game. But hey, they had to draw a line somewhere, right?
Your adventures will take you from island to island, usually in an attempt to find items to help you unlock different sections in existing locations. Talking to non-player characters often reveals information that will unlock new islands on the world map. These islands usually contain the next piece of the puzzle you need to get further in the story, which will almost always be an item. Traveling from island to island is as easy as finding the island on the map, double-tapping it, and then relaxing as your trusty boat automatically sails you there. The boat itself can be upgraded to hold cannons that you can use to shoot enemies on the high seas. It's no King of Red Lions, but it's a fine vessel.
Once you're in a dungeon, you'll be able to complete challenges, just the way you would in a free-to-play puzzle game. These can range from "kill an enemy with a crate" or "smash 100 objects." Completing these challenges get you experience points which are used to increase your Adventurer level. Whenever you level up, you'll get a nifty new item and a brand new Adventurer rank.
All of the trappings of a Zelda game are here, complete with amazing graphics and addictive gameplay that could take weeks to finish. The price is really steep, but it's justified with all of the amazing content you're getting. The best part? The soundtrack features music from Nobuo Uematsu and Kenji Ito, some of the greatest composers that the world of gaming has ever known. Hell, part of me is content to just let the main menu play.
If you've got $10 to burn on the App Store, definitely get this game. Even if you only get up to three iOS games a year, make sure this is one of them. There are hours upon hours of content to play, plenty of islands to explore and monsters to fight. There might not be an Triforce in the game, but you'll find quite a bit of power, wisdom and courage within.