Oceanhorn On Main
HIGH A surprising glow up…
LOW Boss battles.
WTF That dungeon under the city is huge.
The first Oceanhorn was a surprise to me back in 2013. While I expected nothing from that little title, it turned out to be a competent Zelda-like that brought its own style and take on 2D exploration. With this sequel I would have been happy for more of the same, but instead the developers have blown the experience up into a 3D open-world adventure.
The story is about a young, unnamed protagonist that grows up in a small island village. Of course, this idyllic life is disrupted when he encounters a robot and an old man. This meeting soon spirals into a quest to help a princess pursued by dark forces and attempting to reunite divided nations — the usual stuff.
Oceanhorn 2 begins with a small dungeon featuring standard-for-its-genre puzzles and combat that culminates with a cephalopod boss. Impressively, the scope gets considerably bigger with rolling plains, train journeys across the map, a boat and an aircraft, and about midway through the level design goes wild when a diving helmet is introduced and the player can go underwater.
Both the size of the world and the attention paid to small areas is impressive given the size of the team. Things like running across the countryside and finding an observatory with a mini-story about the world’s astrology is a testament to the their dedication to setting and worldbuilding. That said, there are definitely some areas that feel too much like empty space, and some of the diversions feel light in terms of reward – worldbuilding for its own sake is good, but an XP boost or something similarly substantial would have been a nice touch.
More significant problems than empty space are linked to the combat. Specifically, enemies will ignore and interrupt the player’s combos and many can be difficult to parry effectively due to a lack of standard attack patterns. There are weapon unlocks that mix things up and being able to recruit a party of AI helpers can mitigate the frustration, but these things plaster over the combat’s shortcomings rather than elevating it.
Also, the boss fights alternate between obtuse and tedious. An evil turtle required using an elemental attack when it moved into a specific position. It took me a while to figure it out, and when I did, the fight dragged on for another 20 minutes while I was waiting for it to be in the right place before I could shave a sliver of health off each time. Fights like this are a chore.
Even with these complaints, I enjoyed exploring Oceanhorn 2’s world and see what new setpiece or puzzle awaited me – figuring out how to get a power ball through a half-sunken tower is always welcome. The experience is bright, positive, and just two steps away from being truly great.
Players looking for a cheery Legend of Zelda-style title will find it in Oceanhorn 2, and with a much smaller pricetag. It may have a few issues, but it’s worth the price of admission to see what this talented team has put together.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Cornfox & Brothers. It is currently available on iOS, PC, Switch, and Mac. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 12 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E10 and contains Fantasy Violence. There are human enemies in the game, but nothing explicit and the sword swipes and gunshots don’t really have any sort of gore. This will absolutely be fine for kids.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There are definitely some missing visual cues for enemy attacks which will make early combat a great deal harder to deal with. Once there are 2 teammates this becomes basically a non-issue.
Remappable Controls: Certain functions are remappable – namely, the X and Y axis can be inverted.