It’ll be interesting to see if Nintendo eventually bows to the pressure and embraces smartphone gaming. The notion of mobile games being purely of a quick-fix nature is increasingly redundant, particularly with the dawn of controller support and console-quality titles like Deus Ex: The Fall, GTA San Andreas and Infinity Blade III.
In the meantime, if you fancy something with a distinctly Zelda-esque flavour, check out Oceanhorn. There’s no question where this guy takes his inspiration from.
In particular, Oceanhorn has been linked to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (Nintendo Gamecube) and Phantom Hourglass (Nintendo DS), largely on account of the seafaring element.
See, Oceanhorn sees our protagonist take to the seas in a bid to track down his father, who’s seemingly tied up in some sort of mystery/adventure featuring a big seabeast thingy called – yep – Oceanhorn.
The subsequent Zelda comparisons are many, and I suggest you take a deep internal breath before reading the following paragraph.
In the style of the aforementioned Zelda games, Oceanhorn features a sword and shied-wielding child protagonist, a weaponised boat, a central playing area comprised of several islands, smashable pots and blades of grass hiding hearts and money, wooden signs with directions and gameplay hints, bombs, the ability to extend your life capacity by collecting heart fragments, a bow and arrow, an element of magic, bats, caves, dungeons, boss battles, puzzles involving fire and weighted statues, treasure chests, keys, master keys, talking fish guys… The list goes on.
To be fair, it’s actually very, very good, but that’s not to say Oceanhorn doesn’t have its share of faults.
For starters, the touch controls are occasionally irksome (surprise, surprise). You might find yourself accidentally falling off a ledge, for example, though for the most part I genuinely forgot I was playing on my iPad.
I also felt that Oceanhorn’s Item menu was a tad redundant, as the various objects could’ve been scattered across the screen. At the very least, it should be possible to – say – “equip” a few items at a time instead of just one. It’s pretty annoying having to switch between shield and bombs, for example, during a boss fight.
And how about a hint system? We could really use a Navi-style accomplice shouting “Hey!” and “Listen!” at regular intervals. All too often in Oceanhorn, it’s not clear what’s going on, or what you’re supposed to do. Zelda, on the other hand, has a way of gently ushering you in the right direction.
Finally, the more I played, the buggier Oceanhorn felt. At one point I found myself stuck between several boxes in a puzzle and resultantly had to restart the app, and later a key item got stuck atop a wooden signpost.
But hey, I’m largely just nitpicking, and I’m almost judging Oceanhorn as a Nintendo/Zelda game, which of course it is not. What we have is a jolly good Zelda-style adventure, on smartphones, for £5.99. And that’s a good thing.
It’s also worth noting that Oceanhorn looks fantastic, with varied locations, and super-impressive water and fire effects.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention Oceanhorn’s music! Major props to Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy) and Kenji Ito (Seiken Densetsu) for the suitably epic score.
A final, final, final point: As a premium game with no in-app purchases, Oceanhorn recouped its production cost in less than a week. Die, freemium games, die.
- As close to Zelda as you’ll get on the App Store
- A solid 8-10 hours of gameplay
- The music
- Occasionally irksome controls
- Could use some sort of hint system
- A tad buggy
Summary: Oceanhorn is essentially a touchscreen homage to Zelda, and Team Nintendo should certainly take that as a compliment. It’s titles like these that are changing the way we think of mobile gaming.
Developer: FDG Entertainment
Price: £5.99 @ App Store
Compatibility: Requires iOS 5.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.