So when I first saw Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas come about (Oceanhorn from here on out), I couldn’t figure if I was more intrigued by the familiar look or bothered that it didn’t try to be something other than an Indie version of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. In the least, it looked like it would be a fun ride. Given the opportunity, I really wanted to see for myself if Oceanhorn could stand on its own. After a few hours at sea, I’ve come ashore to tell you how it all came about and how my voyage went. The real question here is: will you be able to punch a bear in the face?
Oceanhorn is a good-looking game. The way they used the land blocks is a good way to create unique islands and dungeons and the color scheme sets an inviting and cheerful mood. It looks a lot better than the pixelated scheme chosen by FIST OF AWESOME (FOA from here on out). On the same note, the pixel look does create a great retro look. Both games take me back in time, FOA just takes me back farther. The levels here feel a bit more organic than those of Oceanhorn. By that I mean the levels seem to flow better and in Oceanhorn it feels super modular. Dungeons and houses all look good, but the lands themselves feel funky to me. There’s something to be said about utilizing that method because it does let you get a lot of work done with less effort (not minimal, simply less, if that’s truly how they developed it). FOA had less level to cover in general so they didn’t need to create as much art, but there is some good skill with the pixels shown even if the levels are extremely small by comparison.
Both games are linear; there’s no way to get around it. If you want to argue that FOA has some bend on that because you can choose to go to an arena instead of playing the campaign over again… well that’s weak. It’s an old-school brawler like Double Dragon and that’s as left to right linear as you can get. Oceanhorn’s linearity is less obvious until you get to the water and while you can choose which island to go to of the ones you’ve been told about, you don’t control your boat, just a gun that you can shoot random baddies and floaty-bits. I guess you could call it a mini-game of sorts, but I think I would have preferred a cut-scene instead of this because it felt like a waste of time masquerading as gameplay. I have nothing against linear gameplay unless it feels constrictive. What some people see as lack of choice, others can see it as a more direct way of telling a story so as not get be bogged down with other details. I can totally get behind that.
FOA’s controls seemed to be more on point as far as getting the character to do what I wanted it to. I was able to punch and kick bears in the nuts to my heart’s content. There was nothing really to stop me. Oh, well other than when two enemies had you surrounded and stun-locked you to freedom like Rogues did in World of Warcraft, I didn’t want that. Other than that, once you got the spacing and timing down, the rest was simply timing and tactics. In Oceanhorn, the controls felt rigid and clunky. The dash move was awkward for me and felt like it was only implemented to give some “diversity” in gameplay. FOA had basic controls, but the fights were basic so they played well with each other. In Oceanhorn, the controls are clunky, but the fights seem overly simple which could explain some things. If the controls aren’t going to be fluid maybe the fights were made simpler to accommodate?
Music is usually something that stands out to me in games. Oceanhorn did me no real favors here. FOA comes out on top, which honestly pains me to say because, come on: Nobuo Uematsu! The intro music for Oceanhorn and others like it are very nice sounding, but the in-game music is meh. Is that done by another composer? It’s the main music you’ll listen to and it’s either too quiet or so nondescript. I would hope for something a bit more epic for a seafaring adventure game. In FOA, while I do enjoy the occasional chip-tune, the music got kind of repetitive. On the same note, it was energetic so that the repetitive gameplay was kept mostly entertaining.