So people in the West might agree with me when I say that the PSVita hasn’t really had that many decent games in its time, but then I got round to playing Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas and have to say that I find this game solidly fits the handheld console and has personally earned it’s spot as one of the best PSVita games. The game has been out for some time with it being an IOS release first back in 2013 but over the years it has made its way to Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Android and now the PlayStation Vita in 2017. The genre is an action-adventure game and has you playing as the boy protagonist, who sets out on a quest to search for his lost father and collect the three emblems to defeat the great living fortress Oceanhorn! The game has some features added to it in the PSVita version but these are mainly just utilising the touch screen features of the handheld.
As soon as the game loaded and I was able to move around the world I couldn’t help but feel the resemblances to The Legend of Zelda games, mainly Wind Waker. The art style, soundtrack and certain mechanics just made me feel at home and instantly pick up on the way that Oceanhorn plays out. Which meant that I could do things that first time player might not have understood or picked up on just because I have played The Legend of Zelda. This isn’t a bad thing at all and is one of the reason Oceanhorn is a brilliant game because it takes gameplay and mechanics that people love and know and have put their own unique spin on it.
While exploring the world you will come across an array of different dungeons that are filled with puzzles and treasure to collect, fight monster with an arsenal of weapons and spells at your disposal as well as throwing pots and cut bushes to find hidden coins, hearts and other useful items, can you see now why it reminded me of The Legend of Zelda?
You will find yourself travelling from island to island, discovering the story behind the world and the events that have made it this way. Using your handy boat you set a way point to which island you would like to travel to and then the boat will sail to it. While you are sailing you can use a pumpkin gun to fend off monsters as well as clearing mines that are floating in the water, as well as barrels that give you more items when shot. You don’t control the boat like you do in Wind Waker, instead it’s on an automatic path that takes you from your previous location to the new one. While sailing you are allowed to bring up the world map by pressing circle and choose a different island to travel to. This is handy because you might have chosen the wrong island to go to or have forgotten something on another.
The game has you revisit islands more than once because as you progress through the story you unlock different spells and items that are needed to do certain puzzle and collect treasure chests. You unlock things like the Bow and Arrow, Trencher Boots, Force spell and Fire spell to name a few. These all aid you in collecting the three emblems, the emblems of earth, sky and ocean. The three emblems are kept on separate islands and are looked after by the different races in the game. You have the Owrus who are bird people and the Gillfolk who are fish people… again The Legend of Zelda, but anyway you end up helping them with their problems and finding the emblems.
Combat is really simple and has you using a sword and shield, block enemies with the R button and attack with the square button, if you hold square in, it allows for a strong attack. Using triangle will let you use your spells. When using spells you use up your Mana. To replenish this you either have to buy the item from the shop or smash a few pots. Using circle will allow you to use your items, though like mentioned before circle is the compass when sailing too. You are able to dash by pressing cross and move the protagonist using the left analogue stick. The D-pad is used for scrolling through your spells and items so that you’re not entering a menu while in combat to equip certain things, this allows for very smooth gameplay as I felt like I wasn’t being pulled out of the game to go into the menu.
When in the menu you are presented with your player’s inventory, you can see all the items and spells you have, your quest items and a few other things. You have a flashback section that lets you re-watch cut scenes and also your characters level. You level up in the game by killing varies enemies to get experience as well as finding explorer crystals and accomplishing game challenges. Every time you level up you get a new perk, whether this be faster sailing or being able to carry more arrows. When you get onto an island you are presented with challenges, these are fun to complete and adds more to exploring islands. You can also come across pieces of hearts, if you manage to collect four of these you fill your heart container and this gives your character an extra heart. You can also buy heart containers from shops for a pretty penny if you are having difficulty finding them while exploring. There are little red rocks that you can collect, these are called Bloodstones. There are two reasons for collecting these, one is so that you can unlock a trophy that says you have got them all and the other is so that you can get the strongest spell from one of the NPCs.
The dungeons are filled with puzzles that need you to move blocks around to activate switches or to use arrows to shoot targets. These make you use your brain when playing, which made the game more engaging and enjoyable. There are four main bosses in the game, each one having its own unique play style and like in The Legend of Zelda you have to figure out how to take them down. For example one of the bosses called Turmos is a giant plant and you have to destroy the vines first before being able to do damage to his main health bar. They do get more challenging and this is another reason why Oceanhorn kept me hooked right till the very end.
You will come across many NPC that have their own story to tell as well as shops that you can buy items from. At a certain point in the game you are given a fishing rod too. This means that in your down time or if you are wanting to take a break from exploring you can try and catch fish. It’s a fun little mini game that was added and has a competitive element to it. You can compare the biggest fish size with other to boast about your awesome angling skills! The games world is very bright and colourful and you can really get lost in the world while exploring. You find yourself reading every little sign you come across and every monument that explain the history of the world. The soundtrack is very relaxing and memorable and the cell shaded art style is one that everyone has come to love.
Positives & Negatives
- Engaging story that has the player hocked for hours
- Beautiful soundtrack and art style
- Fun and challenging puzzles
- Traversing the world can be awkward sometimes due to camera angle
Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas was an incredible little game that made me pick up my PSVita and play it for more than 4 Hours in one sitting. The games visually pleasing and the gameplay is simply gripping and has you loving every minute. The developers took mechanics that have worked in other games and made them their own and made a game that’s quite simply one of the best PSVita games that I have played. Sure you can complete the game quite quickly if your just playing the story but when you add in the exploring factor and trying to 100% every island, it allows for many more hours and enjoyable gameplay movements. For these reason I’m more than happy to give Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas a well-deserved 10/10.