Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas

By TheDblTap

THIS ALL SEEMS A LITTLE TOO FAMILIAR…

Oceanhorn is a popular Mobile game which has since been ported to multiple platforms, including PlayStation 4. At the time of writing, the game is on sale on the Playstation Store for £3.99

While the game received critical acclaim, and I’ve seen more than once people praising it for its gameplay, it has all been heavily inspired by another franchise, leaving me wondering if it really deserves that praise…

Oceanhorn Review

A Link to the Past

The game follows a young boy, bound by destiny to become the world’s hero, he ventures out to save it from a dark power vying for control. Meeting a distrusting fish-man race and some humanoid avians along the way, our silent hero will fight through dungeons by collecting keys, opening chests, completing puzzles and beating down bosses. And who knows? Maybe he’ll even bust down a few walls with bombs to collect heart pieces and secrets along the way.

Sound familiar?

If you have ever played a Zelda title, it most likely will. The game relies heavily on previously-built foundations from one of Nintendo’s most successful exclusive franchises. The gameplay, combat and story aren’t the only things mirroring the popular Zelda franchise either.

Enemies are very clearly just re-skinned Zelda mobs and the island-hopping adventures of Oceanhorn’s hero are an obvious and very strong nod to the Legend of Zelda’s Windwaker game, even the character’s blue shirt is a brazen clone of Link’s.

I mean, could it be any more obvious what they are trying to do here?

Now, I can’t really blame the developers here, it’s long been known that those without access to a Nintendo console, or even a desire to own one, look for alternatives which can be played on their console of choice, and the Oceanhorn devs were careful not to miss a single one. So why does it irk me so?

One might expect that when a developer clearly rips off another franchise in this way, it would be because they have some idea to make it better, some way to build on the reference material to show how they think it should be done. However, Oceanhorn, when compared to the Zelda titles, is a poor imitation at best. They haven’t added anything new and exciting to the mix and haven’t really changed the formula all that much. Even the parts they copied haven’t been done in a better way.

The game does have a cute little sense of humour, though.

Zelda games are exciting for the challenging puzzles and insanely well-hidden and rewarding secrets dotted around the world. Oceanhorn has puzzles and secrets too, but the puzzles are laughably easy to complete and the secrets might as well have a huge sign pointed at them to say “SECRETS HERE! COME GET YA SECRETS!”. 

Even the story in Oceanhorn, which is arguably it’s only unique trait, is not anywhere near as fleshed out as a Zelda game’s would be. There’s a singular event which the whole world revolves around and with it comes a very shallow pool of lore which isn’t all that explorable in the slightest. While this can be said of Zelda games too, at least there is some effort put into each race’s own culture and that really goes a long way.

When your models look like this on a HD TV I don’t know if cutscenes are the best way to tell your story…

All this goes to show me that the developers didn’t care about creating something new and unique, they just wanted to cash in on a gap in the market, and it’s all I could think throughout my playthrough. Despite this, I see this being the very reason the game is given high praises on the internet. You’d be hard-pressed to find any piece of journalism or player’s opinion which doesn’t mention the game’s similarities to the Zelda franchise, but in a good light as though this is an exciting thing. 

Do we not reward creativity anymore? Is the key to success simply copying what works? I mean, sure, I loved A Hat in Time which was very heavily inspired by Mario games, but it didn’t scream it at you, and it had some very unique and interesting mechanics to set it apart.

I’ll leave it at that, anyway, something for you to think about. On to the game…

Our Hero’s Journey

Oceanhorn opens with credit given to the musicians and composers who put together the game’s excellent soundtrack and there certainly is no denying that it is one of the game’s strongest features. The music is diverse, beautiful and filled with emotion. It really brings each island to life.

Accompanying the game’s score is a very charming art style which brings the retro, tiled level design to life in 3D, spicing things up with a three-quarter camera angle.

Retro, reimagined.

Speaking of which, the camera cannot be moved. Which I find to be a bit of a shame. Full 360 control of the camera would have opened up many more possibilities in the way of secrets and really helped to bring the environments to life.

While the painterly textures and Windwaker-inspired architecture bring a cutesy sort of charm to the game, the character models are undeniably goofy. I can see an attempt to stylise the human form in order to reduce polys for mobile play, but there exists a level of uncanny-valley eeriness to each malformed figure which is hard to overlook. And even despite it being a high definition port, the characters all have an ugly texture seam down their centre which is certainly impossible to ignore during many of the cutscenes.

As the story develops, our character learns of Oceanhorn, a terrifying living fortress controlled by the powerful mage Ganondorf Mesmeroth, and how the lives of his Mother and Father are mysteriously related. Wanting to – presumably – find and see his Father again, the hero sets out to sea, in order to collect the three pieces of the triforce emblems of power.

Crossing the ocean is not a manually controlled process, and you cannot actually explore the ocean. Instead, you find out about new islands from books, washed up messages in bottles and by speaking to NPCs. Once you learn about a new island, you can select it from the map of the Uncharted Seas and then your boat will automatically sail there, allowing you to shoot at nearby boxes, barrels and Octoroks totally original rock-shooting Octopi.

The knock-off Octoroks do appear on land too.

Each island has its own miniature storyline and objective, ultimately either leading to one of the emblems of power, an island, or some neat, optional new ability to aid in your quest.

Puzzles, Secrets and Challenges

Puzzles in the game often involve pushing blocks around, without much of a challenge. In fact, more often than not. As you make progress and unlock tools like the Trencher boots which allow you to jump, the bow which lets you hit far away targets, or spells to let you freeze things or light them on fire, the puzzles become slightly more diverse but no more difficult.

I will concede that one island in particular – the Island of Whispers – is much more fun than others as it offers some actual challenge in its puzzles and can take a good chunk of time to complete.

The puzzles can often become incompletable if you move the wrong block too far, but there’s usually a blue reset button nearby which will rewind time and place the puzzle pieces back in their original place.

One such blue button.

Secrets come in the form of chests which can contain money, items, experience gems or hearts. The items are pointless as the game will immediately tell you it’s sale value and then give you that much money begging the question as to why they’d need to bother with items at all. 

Secret locations will often contain a bloodstone in lieu of, or as well as, a chest. Bloodstones are the game’s collectables and there are a total of 55 – which you’ll certainly be picking up if you’re after that platinum trophy.

Finding a secret location usually involves nothing more than blowing up a wall with a bomb, though these bomb walls are typically quite obvious, either by being only one tile thin or having a typically bomb-able object nearby to entice you. However, there are a few locations in the game where once you figure out it’s bombable you’ll be asking yourself how anyone could have guessed what was needed there.

Secrets, such as the chest shown above, will often request that you sacrifice progress, too, forcing you to return to the start of a dungeon in exchange for it.

In addition to each island’s completion percentage, which is tied to the collection of bloodstones and the opening of chests, each island features 3 challenges. These challenges are not entirely trackable, however. For example, one challenge requires you to kill 50 skeletons, but there’s no way to see how close you are to completing it.

Oddly, the challenges, while displayed 3-at-a-time on each island, are not tied to that island. For example, one island asks that you kill an enemy by pushing a block into it, but you can do this on any island and still receive the experience for completing it.

I have to wonder why they would choose to do things this way rather than just having an in-game journal through which you can track trophies. You’d think maybe it was done this way to slowly drip-feed challenges to the player but it serves only to reveal them as you progress as you can still complete challenges you never knew existed. Additionally, trophies are tied to the game’s challenges meaning that a quick check of the trophy list will reveal the challenges to you before you even begin to play.

This is evidenced by most of my trophy screenshots having a challenge completion pop-up at the top.

Overall the game offers a decent but very basic Zelda experience, which is enough to keep you entertained for a few hours and is quite reasonably-priced at the moment. Although I’d hesitate to pay the full retail price for it.

My Oceanhorn Trophy Experience

Casual Play

Having seen that the trophies were tied to in-game challenges, were not missable, and wouldn’t provide much difficulty, my aim was to simply play through the game, completing most challenges naturally but taking the opportunity to complete a more specific challenge should the opportunity ever present itself.

Playing through the game, I was careful to collect any coins I saw as I knew I would need to eventually have 2,000 for one particular trophy. I was also actively killing any enemy which would approach me so that I could collect the experience they drop. For one trophy I would be asked to reach level 16, which is a total of 10,000 exp. 

Experience drops from enemies and breaking some destructible objects, usually no more than 10 exp at a time. However, some chests would contain hundreds of experience points and completing challenges was the best way to gain experience.

I didn’t actively go after collectables or secrets for a large majority of the game, after identifying that some would require revisiting an island after getting more of the spells, tools, and abilities.

Using spells sucks, by the way, as you’re forced to use an on-screen cursor to select your target.

Once I reached the end-point of the game and was being told to go and fight the last boss, I took the time to explore the rest of the world and start going after challenges and bloodstones actively…

Before it’s over

On my list to do before going to fight the last boss (which is not required for the platinum, by the way) was to kill all enemy types which still needed farming, ensure I’d visited every island, attempt to collect every bloodstone, and spend my 2000 coins at the shop. I decided I’d leave fishing and reaching level 16 for last.

I discovered that there was just one Island I’d never visited, the Island of Whispers. There was a somewhat confusing but short puzzle ahead of finding it, but once I had, I went on my way. There are no bloodstones on the Island of Whispers, instead, there are Cursed Skulls to collect, which will give you hints as to other collectables on the island, or ways to progress with its miniature questline. 

There is a neat cutscene upon collection of each skull, but it takes too long and doesn’t change for any of the 10 skulls so I obviously started skipping them.

The Island of Whispers is one of the most fun parts of the game and can take up a good couple of hours, though it was clearly an afterthought as it is not tied-in with the rest of the game in the slightest.

Collecting the bloodstones was a bit of a chore at first, with some bloodstones on Bomb Island and the Great Forest taking longer than I would have liked to find. However, once I was confident I had them all (I was wrong), I assumed the remaining few would be on the final island with the boss, so I headed over there to kick its metal tukas.

The final boss fight was pretty easy, it took only a few attempts, but the second round was confusing and I wasn’t sure what I needed to do. It certainly wasn’t hinted at. I kind of like that though, it’s probably the truest to Zelda the game had ever been. In the end, the solution was simple, making the second part of the boss fight even easier than the first.

Annoyingly, I was kicked to the title screen after completing the game, and when I loaded my save it was not a continuation, I was instead placed before the boss again. “Oh well,” I remarked – to nobody in particular – as I spun on my heels and left the dungeon. Just three trophies to go…

Finishing up

To secure that platinum I just needed to do 3 things;

  • Finish collecting Bloodstones. After collecting all of the Bloodstones on the final island, the trophy didn’t pop, which worried me at first but when I checked how many I had it said 53. So naturally, I told myself only a psychopath would put such a weird number of collectables in a game and assumed I was either missing 2 or 7. 
  • Reach level 16. I was level 15 but still had only about 40% of the exp towards the next level.
  • Catch one of every fish in the game.

So I was pretty close, and about 10 hours 30 minutes into my platinum journey I was pleased with progress.

First up I figured I’d do some fishing. I already had a Blue Fin, a Sol Fish, a Goliath and an Arkadian Pike from randomly fishing at certain points throughout the game so there were only 3 I was missing. The Fireback was super easy, it was the first fish I found when I went fishing in the Reef so that was a nice quick and easy one off the list.

Next, I headed to the Graveyard in the hopes of finding the Ghostfish, where else would it be?

It caught 11 fish before I found the Ghost Fish. I knew I’d found it because some text appeared on-screen saying the controls were flipped!?

It took a little while to get used to the flipped controls, they were really messing with my brain for a hot second, but once I started focusing on the fish instead of my fishing rod, and just pushing in whichever direction the fish was headed, it became much easier for my brain to accept. Luckily, I managed to catch it first try, which is good because I really didn’t want to have to catch another 11 fish for it to appear again.

That Ghost Fish is a spooky boy.

Lastly was the Botfish, which is only found on the last island, which makes sense as there are a lot of robots on that island. I found one immediately which surprised me, but I soon found out they’re the only fish there.

I think now would be a really good time to mention how much fishing in this game hecking SUCKS. I haaate it. I hate it so much. You basically push the thumbstick in the opposite direction of the fish’s movement and do that until its strength is depleted. Which is all well and good but the fish are so god-damn erratic! It’s totally random and because of this, some of the fishing attempts can take forever. 

After a good long wrestle, the fish can often randomly speed off the side of the screen before you have chance to react and then they escape, meaning you wasted 5 minutes wrestling a fish you didn’t catch anyway. It’s a nightmare.

Well, this fish takes the horrible fishing mechanics and turns the frustration from a 7/10 to a 100/10. As I said earlier, a fishing attempt can take a really long time due to the erratic randomness of the fish’s movements, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Well, this delightful fish electrocutes you every couple of seconds taking off half a heart of health every time. 

The fishing minigame

So, yes, you need to catch the darn thing before it can kill you. Since you need full health to have even a microbial chance of catching it, and you only respawn with 3 hearts every time it kills you, before you can catch it you have to use magic to heal yourself which uses mana. 

So every time you run out of mana, you’ve got to farm the two nearby bots for ages until they drop mana so you can heal yourself, or drop enough health – one heart at a time – that you’re back up to full health. And all so that you can just try and catch this fish again which is more than likely just going to kill you again or escape, leaving you at low health for the next attempt. It’s infuriating, to say the very least. 

It does end up mostly being luck. My assumption is that smaller fish have less strength, so you want to get lucky enough to find a small Botfish so that it is easier to catch, but also hope that RNG holds out for the entire attempt and the fish stops zipping around in the water for long enough for you to catch it.

Over 20 attempts later (I lost count), I finally caught one. 

With that out of the way, I went to every single island in the game, in an orderly left to right, top to bottom fashion, skipping any islands which were already marked with 100% completion. I eventually discovered I was missing bloodstones on both Bomb Island and Great Forest (exactly the two I mentioned struggling with, and this is why). It took me a good 20 minutes per island to track down the last two and they were hidden behind some pretty obscure bomb walls.

I didn’t even need to break this bomb wall, I noticed I could hit the stone through it.

Having Collected those, by some grace of the gods, this gave me just enough exp to reach level 16 and so I got both my remaining trophy and the platinum!

The game was an easy plat overall but that one fishing trophy was really starting to get to me. And right after I’d just had the worst time platting Patapon, too.

Time Breakdown

General Exploration

Following the Story

Hunting Down Bloodstones

Monster Farming

Fishing

Oceanhorn Trophy Tips

No Challenge – Tips for a simpler run

The main idea here is to just complete the challenges. You don’t even need to beat the game if you don’t want to, but you will definitely want to be working on challenges as soon as you can. There are a few things I recommend do to make things as quick and easy as possible:

  • Buy the Ancient radar from the shop as soon as you can. It costs 500 coins and will tell you how many Bloodstones are on an island. It will also let you know when you’re near one. With this, you’ll be able to get a head start on your collection while you roam around the various islands and save yourself some time later.
  • Don’t actively bother with collectables until you have the Trencher’s Boots. Any of the secrets in the game not hidden behind bomb walls will require you to be able to jump, which you can’t do without the Trencher’s Boots. So there’s not much point trying to 100% each island until you have those. Once you do, you’re fully equipped to get all secrets, so go wild!
  • Don’t let any coins slip by you. You need 2000 for one of the trophies and while it might not seem like a lot, it is. Make sure you collect any coins dropped by monsters or breakable objects.
  • Don’t let any exp slip by you. You will need 10,000 exp and so just like the coins, make sure you’re collecting any that you see. 
  • Kill all the monsters you see. Not only will they give you valuable experience, coins and items, but there are trophies for killing a certain number of some monsters but also for killing one of every monster.
  • Optionally, you could ensure that you fish at least once or twice per island, rather than doing it in one long frustrating bulk effort, which is likely to make the experience more bearable.

Money, Money, Money – Farming Coins

The best place to farm coins, I’ve found, is in the open waters. Any time that you sail between two islands, you’ll come across boxes, barrels, mines and octopi you can shoot with your onboard gun. Not only will you get a lot of coins this way, but you will also gather up quite a bit of exp too!

It’s as if the game wanted me to have evidence!

If you set up a journey from a corner at the bottom to the opposite corner at the top, and vice versa, you’ll pass by a lot of shoot-able objects on your way and collect a lot of money and experience. It really is the best way to farm money.

Off the Hook – Fishing Guide

For those struggling to find certain fish, I put together this mini list of fish locations for you, which includes rarity and catch difficulty:

  • Sol Fish – Found everywhere, very common, very easy to catch!
  • Blue Fin – Found everywhere, annoyingly common, a minor challenge to catch.
  • Fireback – Found at the Reef, Riptide Reef, somewhat common, a minor challenge to catch.
  • Arkadian Pike – Found on Island of Whispers, Gilfolk’s Drop, and Graveyard Isle, uncommon, but rare on Graveyard Isle, annoyingly tough to catch.
  • Goliath – Found in Tikarel, Riptide Reef, Great Forest, rare, not hard to catch but has a lot of strength.
  • Ghost Fish – Found on Graveyard Isle, rare, hard to catch, flips the controls. You will know when you have it on the hook because some text will indicate that the controls have been flipped. If you’re struggling to adjust to the flipped controls you can focus on the fish rather than the rod like I did, or maybe flip the controller.
  • Botfish – found at Arkadian Ruins, common, extremely hard to catch. It electrocutes you for half a heart of damage every couple of seconds or so. You will need full health before attempting, there is no method for making this easier, just pray for a smaller botfish and good luck!

Knocking Skulls – Enemy Farming

There are three trophies I’ll help with here, two of which require you to kill 50 of a certain enemy type:

Still Going

Smash 50 Skeletons to pieces.

You probably already killed many of these on your adventures, so likely won’t need to kill to many more.

This one is best done on the Graveyard island, as you might have already guessed. In the far left corner of the island, where the entrance to the dungeon is, you’ll find three skeletons which spawn fairly frequently. On the opposite side of the right wall in this area, there is also another which spawns. So, you can kill the three here and then leisurely make your way over to the fourth I just mentioned, and hopefully, by the time you make your way back the initial three should be ready to spawn again. 

Here’s where the group of three skeletons spawn.

Simply do this for about 5-10 minutes and you should have the trophy in no time.

Unspawn

Kill 50 Spawn.

Spawn are the robotic spider creatures which you should have fought a few times by the time you’re ready to farm out this trophy. There are actually quite a few on the final island, but I farmed this one out before I’d even visited the final island. Here’s how:

On the Sky Island, when you head into the Deep Core area, there’s a pit near the entrance just to the left of the boss door. In here, two Spawn will… Uhh… spawn. Drop into the pit, kill them, and then head back towards the entrance of the dungeon. Then head down and to the right once you reach the crossroads, and use the ladder on the catwalk to reach the upper floor. 

Head past the fire-breathing statues and go up and to the right once you reach the laser-beam-tower-thing (you’ll know what I mean). Head through the door here and follow the path around the corner to find three more Spawn… spawning.

Now, bounce back and forth between these five Spawn to get the trophy in a maximum of ten trips, although you will certainly have defeated a fair few already, reducing the number of trips it will take.

Here’s where the group of three Spawn spawn.

Hat Trick

Kill three enemies with a single sword blow.

This trophy can certainly seem tricky but it can be really easy.

Before attempting it, I recommend waiting until you have the stronger sword you will acquire a bit later on in the game as this will make the trophy infinitely easier. 

Then, once you have that, head over to the Graveyard isle. Leftward from your boat, you will find a Cepede running around – a large centipede made out of turtle-like shelled critters – and it just so happens to be three enemies long!

Now, it shouldn’t attack you if you don’t get too close, so do your best to try and position yourself adjacent to it while holding to charge up a spinning attack (yep, just like in Zelda). Once you’re confident you’re positioned well enough to hit all three, let loose!

Just like this!

You might need to be positioned somewhere adjacent to the mid-point between the first and second critter in the Cepede train, as it will actually be the second rotation of the attack that kills them and you’ll need to make sure you’re still going to hit them with that.

If you don’t manage it on your first try, not to worry! Go and farm some skeletons or something for a second and then come back to it once it has respawned.

My Verdict:

Plat

Oceanhorn is okay. While it pales in comparison to the franchise it’s frankly ripping off, it offers some fun moments with a few challenges along the way. With only a couple of trophies posing any difficulty and a short time-to-plat, why not get stuck in?

Pros:

  • Fantastic music
  • Charming texture-work
  • Diverse and interesting locales

Cons:

  • Clearly a mobile game port
  • Falls flat in moments with the most potential
  • Zero attempt to hide its goal of cashing in on an existing franchise’s success.

Silver Trophy

I can’t help but wish this game was more than a mobile port. With a lot of potential and a great (stolen) foundation to build upon, the game is surprisingly standard without much to make it stand out.

About the Author

TheDblTap is fond of single-player action and adventure games as well as the odd collect-em-up or RPG. He thinks FPS games are stale and repetitive and has little patience for gunfights which are too drawn-out. Originally a Nintendo gamer, the PlayStation line of consoles quickly took their grasp as he fell in love with Sony’s gamer-centric approach and – eventually – collecting shiny, shiny trophies.

With a keen eye for secrets and treasure, TheDblTap’s play-style often benefits him as a trophy hunter, but as someone with poor timing, he struggles with more skill-based combat trophies…