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It's Time To Hoist Your Sails And Embark On An Epic Adventure In Oceanhorn

November 14, 2013

Oceanhorn ™ ($8.99) by FDG Entertainment is the Legend of Zelda-esque game you’ve been waiting for on iOS. It’s a game that has been in the making for over two years, and has been the subject of many articles here at AppAdvice. As it got closer, there have been numerous delays with the release, but now it’s finally here.

If you’re a fan of adventure games like The Legend of Zelda series, and especially Windwaker in particular, then you are in for a treat with Oceanhorn. As frustrating as some Zelda games have been for me, I still thoroughly enjoy them, and while it would be great if Zelda could come to iOS, that will probably never happen. So Oceanhorn is a great way to fill the void.

My favorite part about Oceanhorn are the gorgeous visuals and soundtrack. The graphics are very reminiscent of Zelda games, and everything is incredibly lush, rich, and detailed. The colors and textures are absolutely stunning on Retina screens. I’ve experienced no lag whatsoever on my iPhone 5s, so if you have a newer device, you should have no issues as it is meant to take advantage of the hardware (optimized for at least iPhone 5). The soundtrack is also a beauty, as it’s the work of legendary composers Nobuo Uematsu and Kenji Ito, who have worked on the Final Fantasy and Seiken Densetsu soundtracks, respectively. If you enjoy epic game music, then Oceanhorn definitely fits the bill.

Oceanhorn has players start their journey at Hermit’s Island, where you control a young boy (who even looks a bit like Link, and remains silent) who learns that his father is missing. Your only clues are your mother’s necklace and a notebook left behind from the father, which will tell you his story as you advance. You will end up having to encounter dangerous enemies, solve puzzles, learn to use magic to aid your quest, and even find ancient relics.

The world opens up to you as you talk to NPCs and find messages in bottles scattered throughout the world — when a new location is mentioned, it will become accessible on your world map, and you can travel to it by boat. You’re going to have to do a lot of poking around in order to find all of the islands in the game.

The controls are fairly intuitive in Oceanhorn. You can control the direction you move in by sliding your finger around, though I prefer to just keep it in the bottom left corner for simplicity. The action button on the right is to interact with NPCs and objects when you are nearby, and to attack when you’re not around an interactive object or person. Once you get your shield, bombs, and other goodies, you get a secondary action button that allows you to make use of your gear, so you can block, place bombs, and more. When you get to the point in the game where you have more than one tool to use, you can switch out what the secondary button is for by tapping on “Item” that is near the main action button. However, if you have an iOS 7 game controller, this game will also work with those.

One thing that irked me is that while you can fall down in a space, you can’t really jump or climb back up to it. This resulted in backtracking quite a lot, and it doesn’t make sense to me, but I digress. Perhaps it’s like that to add more of a challenge.

The combat system is fun, as it’s all done in real-time. You’ll have to time your swings and blocks well if you want to take the least amount of damage, while also knowing when to strike with your items, and like all Zelda games, knowing your enemy attack patterns (especially for boss fights) is key. Blocking can’t be done indefinitely either, as you’ll see a green stamina bar appear above your character, which will deplete as you continue blocking. The same will also show up when you swim, so make sure you swim fast, otherwise you drown.

Puzzles in this game will take brainpower to solve, but there’s also something fairly neat that I don’t see too often. If you feel like you’ve messed up (or actually did mess up), there is always a blue switch nearby for puzzles that will reset it to the original setting. This is easier than having to exit the area and then coming back to make it reset, so it’s definitely convenient.

As you defeat enemies, you will earn blue crystals which serve like experience points. Collecting enough of these will increase your rank, and if you can find four heart pieces, you can earn another heart to your health. The gold coins you collect can be spent at various merchants in the game to get gear to help you out on your journey. And like you do in all Zelda games, make sure to slice through patches of grass and break pots because you can find heart refills and coins this way.

In the top right corner, you’ll have the mini-map of the area you’re in. Blue triangles indicate NPCs and red dots signal nearby enemies. You can also tap on it to pull up the in-game menu to see your current rank and how much more gems you need, your completion of the area, and the challenges available (Game Center achievements). The current items and spells you have are also shown here, how many heart pieces you’ve gathered, quest items, flashbacks, chat logs with NPCs, and settings are all found in this menu as well. I really liked having all of this available from one view, because it makes things simpler. And if you ever get stuck, it’s a good idea to recall the chat logs to find out where you should be heading next.

For those worried about progress, checkpoints are littered throughout areas and dungeons so once you reach them (they glow when you approach), you will start back at that point if you die.

So far, I’ve been taking my time with the game and only have about an hour logged into it. However, I can tell that this is going to be a game that I will keep coming back to until I beat it, because it’s just too good. The visuals are stunning, the music is grand, and it’s a challenging adventure game with tons of content to unlock and discover. And the best thing? This is a premium game, with no in-app purchases — I missed these types of games.

If you’re a fan of The Legend of Zelda and have been waiting for a game like this on iOS, then do not hesitate to pick up Oceanhorn today. It’s been in the works for two years, and it is well worth the wait. Plus, this is a title that will keep you occupied for a long time with an immersive world and story.

You can find Oceanhorn in the App Store as a universal download for $8.99.

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