One thing that being home in quarantine and lockdown really teaches you is time and how it can both pass very fast and not at all. Seemingly released yesterday, Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas was a great homage to the likes of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker in an isometric view all while being a hit to its own name. Now years down the line, Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm returns to that world ages before the first for a much grander adventure.
Like the original Oceanhorn, Cornfox & Bros have set out another homage of sorts to a great series all while still making it their own and not just some carbon copy. Does it always work? Not really, but, Oceanhorn 2 while feeling a bit like Skyward Sword and Breath of the Wild at times with its visual designs, is the tale of a knight, a princess and a robot as they set out to return emblems of power to their respective nations now that the Great White City has learned all of their secrets.
Just this story element alone, having to do the reverse of the normal reason adventurers and heroes will generally dive into dungeons and hidden temples, was rather neat. Even if it’s generally for a “good” reason, not being a thief of sorts makes for a different styled adventure because not only are you trying to put things back, but you’re also asking for permission before doing so. Are you always granted that said permission? Maybe not but when you have a member of that particular nation’s royalty on your side? You side with them and head in regardless!
Where Oceanhorn 2 takes a giant departure from the first is that gone is the top down isometric view. Now in its place is an open 3D world with the camera following behind our young knight and his party as they explore the world and face off against monsters and evil forces alike. Moving around for the most part is easy enough between walking, running and the ability to scale objects as long as they are about shoulder height with our young hero. Any higher than that and you’ll have to be a bit inventive to go higher.
Like any good adventurer, on top of scaling boxes and cliff sides you’ll have trusty gear to help see you through it. Sword, shield, grappling hook, bombs, an arcane gun and loads of elements to experiment with, the world should have been your oyster yet, sometimes you just need an extra set of hands. Along for the ride this time you have two companions that can help you with pressing other switches or throwing boomerangs to hit switches if you don’t currently have a jar nearby to do the trick.
Having party members while a neat touch, doesn’t always work because of the general AI. Oftentimes, while you can tell your party members to move to a spot and hold still they’ll do it, but when it comes to slightly more complex “commands” they may not. An example of this is that if a switch is out of reach, they’ll just stand there staring at it unless they have a range attack. They won’t actually tell you they can’t. Telling them to attack enemies also felt like a chore because you would think that it’s something they should automatically be doing as they are a threat to everyone’s lives. Even when you do though, it’s almost like a turned based RPG affair because they’ll wait, wait, attack, wait, wait, attack all while the enemies are attacking like their lives depend on it because let’s be honest, it does.
Another aspect that didn’t quite work for me were the puzzles and not because the puzzles were not well designed, but because the instructions for how you can interact with the world were not. It took me about a good half hour before finally figuring out that you could throw jars or pots at things. You can pick it up, and then the only listed command is to put down. Finally I accidentally hit the fire command from my gun while in the aim view and there it went. The same can be said with how the elements that can be loaded up into your gun work. That was another twenty some odd minutes before I figured out that if you press and hold while firing electricity it’ll simply arc along connecting the dots instead of thinking that each had to be charged individually.
Finally, the actual combat felt a bit bland as most enemies don’t really have attack patterns for say. Instead they’ll simply charge at you and since you can’t actually stun them per say or “flinch” them, they’ll attack and do damage. You can dodge, but it’s a bit rough as you can only target an enemy while your shield is up, you can’t target them otherwise which was really weird especially as dodging enemies is a more effective way than trying to parry them with your shield while you’re surrounded again for the xth time and can’t actually stay still.
There was one aspect that stood out over time however that was slowly solving some issues that I had felt that I had with Oceanhorn 2. As you defeat enemies you’ll be acquiring experience crystals that are used to level up and a bit like Fable from Lionhead, changing your reputation which is what people in the world call you instead of your actual name. As you level up, you’ll be able to hold more of your various types of ammo as well as get more stamina to help you run around as in the beginning? It wasn’t even worth trying to “run” around as it would last for seconds. Once upgraded though it makes exploration that much easier since this is a big world and there’s no real fast travel short of these domes that can be unlocked over time. Otherwise? Hopefully you’re reading for some long jogs because you’ll be doing a lot of that.
Oceanhorn 2 has some good ideas, but I felt like a few of them could have used a bit more refinement from the combat to the actual exploration because while only being able to climb up something shoulder height is ok, everytime you “jump” it’s a massive like leap instead of a tiny hop and just doesn’t feel or look right. Knowing that it came out on the iOS first, I can see how some of these would have worked rather well on a mobile, but on a console? It just feels award and dated.