‘Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm’ Switch Review: Old is New Again

Oceanhorn 2 Switch Review
out of 5

There’s more than a hint of familiarity in Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm from developer Cornfox & Brothers on Nintendo Switch. Like its predecessor Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas, this prequel/sequel draws heavily from Nintendo games of yore — most notably the Zelda franchise. While it cannot live up to the excellence inspiration is drawn from, Oceanhorn 2 is a satisfying and expansive adventure in its own right.

Monster of Uncharted Seas was a love letter to the top-down Zelda games so it is not all that surprising that Oceanhorn 2 is modeled after the 3D open world Zelda games like Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. The former is especially true given the sailing aspect between land masses, but gameplay draws from a variety of sources.

In combat, the primary weapon is the ancient Caster gun that can be outfitted with traditional rounds and magical spell rounds such as ice, lightning and fire. Trial and error is required to determine which rounds work best on which enemies, though spell rounds are also used numerous times to solve puzzles.

One of Oceanhorn 2’s greatest strengths are in those puzzles which at times are simple but can also require some extensive studying of the situation. Through the use of the Caster gun, grappling, switch activation and button-less jumping initiated by running off a ledge, the young knight hero can traverse through wonderfully diverse locations in Gaia set in numerous biomes.

While ranged attacks with the Caster gun are satisfying, melee combat leaves a lot to be desired. Billed as a “hack and slash” adventure, Oceanhorn 2 sometimes feels like a dancer with two left feet when battling foes up close and personal. Z-targeting is limited to when the hero’s shield is raised, so getting turned around while swinging a sword the wrong direction is commonplace.

Melee combat also could use more refinement so the transition between swinging and defense is smoother. Thank goodness for the ability to roll away from enemies, especially early on before weapon effectiveness can be increased.

One of Oceanhorn’s biggest surprises is a rather extensive story accompanied by a vast amount of spoken dialogue. It feels like there’s a movie’s worth of dialogue, most of it sounding fantastic. One could gripe Trin, the granddaughter of Arcadia’s leader Archimedes, is a bit monotone regardless of the situation. But it’s refreshing to hear the cast speak rather than read endless exposition.

Within the game’s first act, Trin and Gen, a robot with a mysterious past, will join the hero’s party and follow along. They can be useful in attacking enemies and activating switches. The latter is even a requirement in some situations so they are not to be ignored.

Toss in some basic vehicle driving for good measure and Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm is a good time even if it feels like a lesser version of the more polished Zelda games. It reminds me most of a non-Nintendo game ironically, Kameo: Elements of Power for Xbox 360, with its environments and elemental influences. The infusion of a technological-based enemy makes it feels fresh and a fun romp for all.

Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm was provided to us by the publisher for the purposes of this review.

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