I wasn’t crazy about the massive changes The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild brought to the Zelda series, and I’ve been longing for an experience closer to traditional 3D Zelda games for years now. Luckily for me, Cornfox & Bros.‘ Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm on Nintendo Switch is just that. From its linear structure and clever puzzles to its beautiful visuals and solid pacing, Oceanhorn 2 may be mimicking greatness, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to play.
The story follows a young knight who is unexpectedly thrust into a journey across the various regions in the land of Gaia, all to defend this land and people from a Dark Army on the horizon. It’s a pretty standard and mildly entertaining story. The story doesn’t stand out as anything exceptional or memorable, but there are some intriguing tidbits throughout.
It does shine in the presentation department though. Oceanhorn 2 is easily one of the most beautiful Switch games this year. I was amazed at the attention to detail throughout the world Cornfox & Bros. created. The variety in both the environments and color palette kept me eager to see the next location. From dense, vibrant wooded areas to sprawling open grasslands and snowy alps — you’ll be hard-pressed to find an ugly section in Oceanhorn 2. It’s extremely impressive just how much the developer is able to pump out of mobile hardware.
Granted, it’s not perfect
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm does have a few minor hiccups. In the first few hours things were just fine, but the further I got in, performance issues arose. The open environments specifically suffer from some pretty bad frame rate drops. I also experienced a few crashes during my playthrough. Luckily, nothing game-breaking occurred, and the game auto-saves frequently.
But to reiterate, what I love about Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm is that it’s a love letter to pre-BOTW Zelda games, taking a lot of inspiration from Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, and Skyward Sword. Just like in those more linear entries, you’ll always know where your next objective is. However, there’s still plenty to explore and discover. There are surprisingly massive locales you’ll encounter, too. You’ll get the most out of your experience with Oceanhorn 2 if you explore every inch of the environment. (You’ll need those pieces of heart!)
A lot of the story elements, puzzle designs, and characters in Oceanhorn 2 are pretty blatant copycats of Zelda, which can be pretty jarring. However, I honestly welcome it. It’s not like Nintendo is cranking out a full-fledged Zelda game every year. I’m starved for more Zelda! And Oceanhorn 2 definitely scratches that itch. With that said, sometimes I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at how blatantly similar some of the game is.
Temples, puzzles, monsters, oh my!
Given this is a Zelda-inspired game, you’re probably most curious about the puzzles and combat. Well, the puzzles in particular really impressed me. At times, I forgot I wasn’t playing a Zelda game, which is probably the biggest compliment I could give Oceanhorn 2. Not only are the puzzles fun, but the game also has you utilize new tools in each dungeon, one thing that I sorely missed in Breath of the Wild.
I must admit that I felt overwhelmed with joy when I found a hookshot, as I’m a bit obsessed with hookshots in games, and it’s awesome in Oceanhorn 2. It’s useful for traversal and combat alike!
The combat itself is a bit stiff though. The movement doesn’t feel as mechanically strong as in most modern third-person action games. This drawback is likely due to Oceanhorn 2 being a mobile game first, so the developer couldn’t implement fast-paced, intricate combat for a touchscreen game. And sadly, the combat doesn’t translate very well to a controller.
You’ll utilize a gun in Oceanhorn 2. It has different functions like burning down walls to reveal hidden areas, solving puzzles, and, of course, firing in combat. Electric bullets, ice bullets, fire bullets, and more are at your disposal to combat enemies. It’s a pretty nifty addition that’s one of the few differentiating elements of the game. One of my favorite combat techniques was throwing a bomb at enemies and then firing a bullet at it, sending them all flying. Made me feel too cool for school.
Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm does a great job at keeping you wanting to play — whether it’s throwing a fast-paced motorcycle section into the mix, a large-scale boss battle, or just offering a gorgeous world that begs to be explored. The pacing is superb. It’s one of the few non-AAA titles that, at times, feels like a AAA experience. This sequel is a huge step up from the original Oceanhorn. This game truly gets me excited for what the studio does next, which, if it follows the Zelda trend, will be tackling a BOTW-like experience next. I’m here for it!
Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm, like the original Oceanhorn, fails to have its own identity. However, in some areas, it does Zelda better than, well, Zelda. While the sub-par combat and iffy performance bog down the experience, its beautiful world, clever puzzles, and solid pacing elevate it to the very tip-top of the “Zelda-like” list.
A review code was provided by the publisher.