Developer: Cornfox & Bros.
Price: $8.99
Version Reviewed: 1.2
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5, iPad Mini Retina

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★★
Controls Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Oceanhorn, the Zelda-style action-RPG from Cornfox & Bros., has been anticipated for a while; but I came upon a game that falls short of the hype and its inspirations.

Oceanhorn-1Now, a high-quality 3D Zelda-style game just hasn’t been attempted much on mobile. And getting Nobuo Uematsu, composer for many of the Final Fantasy games to do the music? Unheard of! This is a game with a heady pedigree, and the ambition is rather apparent: it’s a beautiful-looking game. Play this on a retina iPad if possible: it chugged a bit on the new Retina Mini at times, but it looks absolutely immaculate. Whether it be in a dark dungeon, in a sunny town, or sailing on the high seas, this is a visual feast. And the orchestral soundtrack sets an appropriately epic mood. On the surface,Oceanhorn lives up to the hype.

But the problems start to emerge when playing. The game just feels so clunky. Aiming the bow and arrow accurately is difficult with the invisible virtual joystick; it’s just hard to aim. Bombs are hard to throw with any sort of accuracy without blowing oneself up. Certain ledges can be fallen off of, but others can’t – and it feels all decided by the game, not by any kind of apparent logic. That gets to the real flaw at the heart of Oceanhorn: the game is driven primarily of its own volition, of where Cornfox needs the game to go to, rather than the player wanting to continue. I was always guided by some other force than my pure desire to do so. Why should I continue when I reach a tricky boss fight?

Oceanhorn-7Worse still, the emotional beats of the story never connect – the death of the hero’s father that sets up Oceanhorn‘s story and conflict against the eponymous villain never clicks – it just happens. There’s a female companion at one point who seems to forge an emotional connection with the hero, but it doesn’t feel earned, it feels like it happened because deus ex machina dictated it to be so. For a lengthy and involved adventure, these are nearly-catastrophic failures. This is a game that ought to connect with and captivate its players, but it fails to do so. It can be such a subtle thing, but the best games find ways to make the player care, and make them to want to continue.

So what we have with Oceanhorn is a beautiful game – an ambitious one that dares to exist as a premium product on a platform where premium games just don’t really exist. But the actual quality of play and of the content leaves a lot to be desired. For a game that feels so much like it wants to be like the legendary games it takes inspiration from, it fails to get just what made them legends.


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