RE-REVIEW: Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Waters

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Title Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Waters
Developer Cornfox & Bros.
Publisher Cornfox & Bros.
Release Date May 17th, 2017
Genre Action Adventure
Platform Vita, PS4, PC, Mobile
Age Rating ESRB E for Everyone
Official Website

Oceanhorn is a Zelda-inspired action adventure game. This is a re-review of the game, with the new Vita port. If you want to see the original breakdown of the game, you can check it out here. I’m going to go into detail on how it works on the Vita as well as where my opinion differs a bit from the previous review.Oceanhorn | Starting island

Near as I can tell, this is a 1:1 port of the console/PC release. Everything is intact. If you want the same game that the PS4 and PC got but on the Vita, then this has all you want. As far as I’m aware, there aren’t any new additions to the game. Just the same game on a different platform. The original review was for the PC version, and there were complaints of poor performance. Fortunately, I haven’t encountered those issues here. The game’s performance seems acceptable to me.

The UI in this game makes it very obvious that it was designed with a touchscreen in mind. Menus for shops have very large buttons to accommodate for that. Fortunately, the Vita has a touchscreen, so you could argue it outshines the PS4 and PC versions in this respect. However, it’s a bit awkward that part of the start menu stretches off-screen and you have to scroll to see the rest of it. It would’ve been nice if the UI had been modified to accommodate the Vita.

Oceanhorn | Bombs are your friend

With Oceanhorn being a Zelda clone, the focus is obviously going to be on puzzle solving and combat, and the game drops the ball pretty hard on both fronts. The combat is bad. Attacks lack any sort of weight to them, and enemies only blink when hit. Even in the very first Zelda game, enemies would fly backwards in response to getting hit. This not only makes attacking more satisfying, but it gets enemies away from you. Enemy attacks lack any kind of signposting, so trying to go toe-to-toe with those wielding weapons is a bad idea. Classic Zelda games generally relied on proper positioning for combat, but you can’t do that too well here. You might try circling around enemies, but you’re not really fast enough for that and you’ll probably take damage anyways.

I found tossing bombs at enemies trivializes the combat almost entirely. Some bosses I was able to take down just tossing bombs at them. Combat is just not satisfying at all, and I found myself circumventing enemies since they generally won’t bother to chase you. Fortunately, most bosses were clever enough to where I couldn’t just lob bombs at them and had to solve a little puzzle for them. Most of these had decent concepts but sketchy execution. For example, there’s a boss where you must lure it in front of a flamethrower in order to expose its weak point. That sounds fine, but the AI seems to just do whatever it feels like sometimes. Combine this with hard-to-dodge attacks and a wonky camera, and the experience isn’t very fun.

Oceanhorn | Sailing

My thoughts on the puzzles don’t differ much from the previous review. They’re barely puzzles and feel mostly like busy work. The solution is obvious; just gotta shove some blocks around. Dungeons are incredibly linear for the most part. Zelda dungeons are fantastic at challenging your spatial reasoning. The dungeons and puzzles here only challenge your patience. Most of the items and magic spells you get generally have only situational uses. For example, the fire spell is for just melting bits of ice or lighting torches. Outside of the ice dungeon I didn’t find much use for it. Occasionally, combat requires some magic, but it’s a little less than elegant. Spells take a couple seconds to cast, and during that time enemies can do whatever while you’re standing still.

I didn’t have as much trouble with the isometric camera angle as the previous reviewer did. I was fine with navigating levels for the most part. The environments weren’t particularly interesting enough to explore, though. For the most part areas are pretty linear, with where you’re meant to go being fairly obvious. The open world is a giant ocean littered with islands, akin to Wind Waker. This had me a bit excited, but it managed to suck all the fun out of that.

Oceanhorn | Bow and arrow

You can’t actually sail around and discover things at your leisure. You can only sail to islands that you’ve discovered through dialogue, and the sailing is entirely on rails. The only thing you do is occasionally shoot some enemies and mines that might damage you. This is hardly engaging; just mash the fire button until you get to the island. There really should’ve been at least some way to skip these segments.

Overall, if you liked the original and want it on the Vita, then it’s legitimately a very good port. If you’re a Vita owner looking for something new to play, I’d advise steering clear of this. There are very few good things this game offers that aren’t plagued by a number of problems. For $13 you could get something much more worth your time.

Review Score

Review copy provided by the publisher.

About Jason Quinn

Been playing video games since before I could form coherent sentences. I love a wide variety of games, from fast, technical action games to slow RPGs. Aside from video games, I have a love of music, film, and anime.