Oceanhorn for iOS puts to rest any doubt about the power of mobile devices as gaming consoles.
Nintendo has stated, firmly and more than once, that it won't be bringing its proprietary titles to mobile formats. If The Legend of Zelda were to come to mobile, though, we don't think it could do a better job than the newly released Oceanhorn. After being in development since 2011 (and promised for a 2012 release) from the developer behind Death Rally, it's landed for iPhone and iPad — and the time in development shows.
As does its inspiration. The Cornfox & Bros team wrote on its blog when it announced the game in 2011, "Development of Oceanhorn began from our love towards old console adventure games, where instead of looting dungeons and grinding XP, you explored the world and solved puzzles and followed dusty maps to find treasures from the remains of old temples and castles. We want to deliver that experience, where instead of taking care of boring chores, you can have an adventure of your lifetime on a fantasy land."
But the tribute to The Legend of Zelda is clear, with strong elements of The Wind Waker and A Link to the Past. The game starts on a small island, where our unnamed protagonist lies sleeping. Some time ago, his father disappeared on a quest to slay Oceanhorn, the monster of the seas; upon waking, his quest begins with seeking out the sword and shield his father left behind, hidden on the island.
As you explore the island, smashing pots, cutting grass, opening chests, slaying monsters (bats, crabs and rock-spitting octopodes), collecting keys, the feel of the game is deeply familiar, but it has a few key differences. Our hero can swim, as well as walk and drop over low ledges, and you collect achievements and blue gems to level your character up from "Vagabond" to "Master" in the adventurer ranks.
The story is not quite the same, either: 1000 years ago, a great catastrophe gave rise to the monster Oceanhorn. Now it seems to be hunting our hero, and a large part of the narrative involves discovering exactly what happened during the catastrophe, what led up to it and why you're now the target of Oceanhorn.
The game looks absolutely beautiful on the screen, with stunningly rendered environments and animations, and a soundtrack by Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu and Mana and Saga composer Kenji Ito adds to the polish. The controls are a little finicky: the left side of the screen has an invisible floating D-pad, which we were able to slide off very easily; we recommend playing on an iPad (you'll enjoy the graphics more that way anyway) with a Fling joystick. The right side of the screen has a fixed, context-sensitive action button and an item button, which are a little easier to manage.
Oceanhorn is available from the iTunes Store for AU$9.49. Worth every penny.