Whether or not you’ve played any Zelda games, Oceanhorn (out now, $8.99) is a gorgeous treat for iOS action-adventure lovers. You play as a boy whose father leaves to face a fearsome sea monster — the titular character.
At the start of the game, you wake on a hermit’s island. Since the hermit is a friend of your father’s, the island’s relatively safe, although every now and then there are low-level monsters for you to slay. Initially, you’ll have to defend yourself with just a stick, but after some exploration, you’ll be able to find your father’s lost sword and shield.
These are dark times in the Kingdom of Arcadia (as always, in a game world), and it’s up to you to restore order by collecting three sacred emblems, of the earth, ocean, and sun. On a small boat, you’ll sail from island to island to hunt down these emblems. In the course of your adventure, you’ll venture through dim caves and tunnels, battle various monsters, and collect a host of items from coins and weapons to hearts and spells. For every beast you kill, you’ll be awarded with blue diamonds, which are the equivalent of experience points. Sometimes you’ll also have to solve puzzles to get from one area to another, such as by activating switches to unlock gates or pushing crates to create paths.
By talking to other people on the islands you can obtain side quests and discover new islands. I enjoyed being able to throw objects at enemies and also destroy objects to be rewarded with random items. This can come in useful when you’re low on health or weapons (such as bombs and arrows). Tossing bombs can be tricky though. If you’re not careful you can hurt yourself!
The 3D graphics and cut scenes are amazingly beautiful, as is the music, which was composed by Nobuo Uematsu and Kenji Ito, who both worked on Final Fantasy. Except for a few minor issues, the game performs fabulously. I spotted tiny graphical glitches and managed on a few occasions to get my character stuck in buggy parts of the map, but restarting the game fixed it (without losing much, if any, progress). Having to open the inventory box to switch between weapons (e.g. shield vs. bombs vs. arrows) was more clunky than I’d like, but since I have the bad tendency of accidentally tapping the bomb button I’m also happy to be able to put it away.
Oceanhorn is a must buy for anyone who enjoys action-adventure games, including Zelda fans. The game is well designed, despite the occasional minor bug, and will offer you many hours of entertainment.