STAFF REVIEW of Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas (Xbox One)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016.
by Brent Roberts

Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas Box art When you have a game that is rapidly approaching its 3rd birthday (November 14, 2013) and was originally an iOS game, naturally you're not going to be expecting much in terms of quality. Now, when you also see that it's $14.99 on a current-gen console, you start questioning your own sanity. Xbox One owners get to dive into the adventure called Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas from Cornfox & Bros., but the big question that we have to ask ourselves: is Oceanhorn worth essentially $15 + tax when it's an iOS game that is almost 3 years old?

Normally I'd wait longer in my review to touch on anything to do with the sound; however, this game absolutely surprised me with the quality of the audio. I wondered why this was, and then his name popped up on the screen: Nobuo Uematsu. For those who don't know this name, I would regard him as one of the most influential musical composers in video game history. With a career that spans decades, Mr. Uematsu's work ranks in comparison to Beethoven. A master of music, you can hear his work right from the beginning. Every area carries with it a certain musical feeling that ranges from lighthearted and almost childlike fun, to a brooding and ominous soundtrack that is more foreboding. I can honestly say that when I first turned the game on I just set the controller down and listened for a while. Hearing the soundtrack combined with the crashing of the waves made the game unbelievably calming, which is deceptive given the story. If anything, the music alone is reason to buy this game.

The story is sadly nowhere near up to the quality of the music, but that does mean it's not any good. It's a story about survival of numerous races in an attempt to maintain peace, in a time where dark corruption has spawned numerous monsters bent on using dark power to destroy everything. Only one monster now remains, and that monster is Oceanhorn. Your father, knowing the danger that this one monster can cause, set out on a quest to destroy it, but never came back. Through your quest you will acquire magical skills and powerful weaponry, as well as meet interesting and somewhat mysterious people as you sail to various islands and try to figure out what Oceanhorn is, as well as the location and outcome of your father. While the story reads like a Hollywood suspense blockbuster, it is fairly generic, but that's not essentially a bad thing, and let me tell you why.

Oceanhorn has been strongly compared to numerous entries in the Zelda game series. In fact, some have gone so far as to say Oceanhorn is literally a carbon copy of some of them and that nothing feels unique to it since it seems to have diminished the amount of content in what you can do compared to a Zelda game. You hear phrases like "Legend of Ocean" and "Windhorn Waker", and that got me thinking; OK, first off I have to say that if there was ANY game that you would want to take inspiration from, it's a Zelda game. If you want a quality adventure game, there honestly isn't better source material out there. If one of my biggest gripes is that I'm too much like a Zelda game, I think that should be a huge compliment. I've lost count in how many times there have been modern adventure games that cost far more than this to make and they were a gargantuan failure. So, I guess I would say thank you to all those who would call this a Zelda clone.

Oceanhorn does a lot to make itself a quality gaming experience. One of the ways it goes about this is through the control system. Using the X button to swing your sword, and Right Trigger to raise your shield, your character is almost ready to go right from the very first level. As you progress you unlock spells that you can use with the Y button, and the A button is used as a dash/interact button. It goes without saying that Oceanhorn packs very simple gameplay mechanics which helps make this game very easy to just pick up, play, and enjoy. I did have some control issues in various areas that involved the mini map (which is essentially worthless), but overall the gameplay was definitely solid.

Using a very "Zelda-ish" feel for the graphics was a big stretch in artistic liberty, but in the end the results are pretty good. The islands themselves have unique qualities about them, which does well in helping to identify their own individual identity within the game. When you also take into account the individual music for each island, home, cave, and dungeon, you get the feeling that Oceanhorn is making a strong case for standing upon its own two feet.

Normally I'm not a fan of a 3-year-old mobile game that decides to release on the Xbox One, but I am a fan of Oceanhorn. The streamlined controls allow for fluid gameplay, the graphics pay fantastic homage to legendary source material, and the soundtrack is hands down in my top 5 Xbox Soundtracks of all time. In fact, one of the reasons for the score being lower then it could be is that I feel the songs are not long enough. I miss those sweeping soundscapes of harmonics and melodies, and while they are there, they're just too short. Yes, the story isn't that intriguing as some may want, but it's not that bad, and there is a sequel in development, and if this is their foundation to build upon I foresee nothing but some of the best quality gaming coming from Cornfox & Bros. I would venture to say that Ocearnhorn: Master of Uncharted Seas is without a doubt worth the $14.99 + tax, so go forth, purchase, download, and enjoy a solid gaming experience.

Other than focus on improving the story delivery and increasing the amount of activity you can do in the world, I would love to do a review of the soundtrack should one exist. Honestly readers, the soundtrack is a masterpiece.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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