If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then it’s quite obvious that Oceanhorn is enamored by The Legend of Zelda. That’s the consensus among game reviews. You see Oceanhorn was originally released on iOS back in 2013 and later to Android, it is a port of a mobile phone game that cost $5. However, the Nintendo Switch version is $15. Yes folks I am reviewing a 4 year old mobile phone game for my Switch. Is it worth you may ask? Well yes, definitely!
While there is a clear striking similarity to Zelda there is definitely some other flavors involved. Most notably Landstalker for the Sega Genesis. The isometric view the game is played in reminded me of that continuously throughout my journey. While some may argue that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery as I’ve stated above, I had a different experience with the game. I felt Oceanhorn was more of a love letter to fans of retro adventure games. In the vain of 3d Dot Game Heroes it took nostalgia and made it a delightful experience. I feel it actually did a better job than 3d Heroes. I constantly found a smile on my face as I played thru the Game’s dungeons. Excited to see what I’d find next, each item very Zeldaesque as were the dungeons themselves. Wander around, find an entrance, solve some puzzles, beat a boss all as a young boy swinging around a sword your father left you all while exploring an ocean on a boat. This is definitely Zelda….
That is until you factor in the story and the voice acting. The story feels like a parent making up a bedtime story on the spot because the child keeps demanding it. While the voice acting feels like actors reading said story at gunpoint while auditioning for a Dutch soap opera. The monster’s name is Oceanhorn. This sounds like a song name that Marilyn Manson rejected while writing Antichrist Superstar. These are some very gleaming weak spots. If this game was a dungeon boss, in typical Zelda fashion I’d aim at these in order to defeat it. Then I’d collect my heart piece and move on.
However all of this is easy to look past because the game is fun to play. The port was definitely well pulled off. The graphics received a huge face-lift and look very good on while on the dock. In handheld they look closer to the original iPhone release but still benefit from the fresh coat of paint. The control revamp is a vast improvement over the original touch controls. It’s very responsive and my only gripe is I can’t reconfigure the buttons. I kept accidentally hitting the item button and wasting bombs. This is just me personally though. It’s not necessary but would have been a nice inclusion. The combat is never too difficult but offers a nice challenge which makes sense since the original was all touch and would have been impossible to pull off. The only other thing I would have liked to have seen added would have been controlling your boat during the ocean exploration sections. You are given a gun to shoot objects and enemies but all ocean exploration is done on rails. The island to island travel gives it a touch of a Wind Waker element but allowing me to explore where I wished would have added a lot to the game and made it feel alot closer to its influence. Its not enough to ruin the experience but it would have added to it. Maybe for the sequel.
That being said Oceanhorn was actually a very enjoyable experience. It definitely had an old school vibe to it while feeling fresh. It took a lot of great parts from its influences and packaged them into something special. The best comparison I could really give it would be to take the Legend of Zelda and make it an arcade game. That’s Oceanhorn in a nutshell, and that’s not a bad thing at all. If you grew up in the 90’s like me or just like a decent adventure game definitely check out Oceanhorn for the Switch. It’s worth the price of admission for sure.
Score: 8 out of 10