Publisher: Nordcurrent | Developer: Max Mraz | Platforms: PC (Reviewed) | Code Provided to We Got Comms for Review Purposes
Ocean’s Heart does its best to iterate on its The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past inspiration, but in many ways it simply doesn’t match up. In fact, there is so much here that is an outright copy and paste from the SNES classic that the game has very little identity of its own. From the way arrows stick in walls and wobble a bit, to the animations when you fall down a hole or into the water; these are 1:1 re-creations of the inspiration material. There are some additional elements here: such as a more focused storyline with a multitude of quests to accomplish (and a quest log to track them) along with some basic crafting mechanics for potions and upgrading weapons and such, but none of them feel like particularly compelling additions. If all you were looking for was a game like Zeldas of yore, then Ocean’s Heart will be right up your alley. Even if it doesn’t manage to do Zelda as good or better than Zelda, it will no doubt satiate that same appetite. It certainly spurred my desire to go back and play the old-school classics.
6/10 – Solid
On the Cutting Room Floor…
Zelda by the Seaside
Ocean’s Heart tells the story of a young girl who sets off on an adventure in search of answers after disaster strikes her small seaside village. Without spoling anything: here, too, the game mimics Zelda by virtue of the story surrounding the protagonist’s father whom serves as the driving force behind the start of the adventure. The slight difference here is that there is more dialogue between them, and a slight explanation is given as to why the protagonist’s father would go traipsing about in the manner that he does following the game’s prologue.
The Nostalgia Play
There is an immediate familiarity in the way that the game plays. Top down view, one-button combat, and a couple of slots for tools such as a bow and other items you find as you play. It’s all very functional and nostalgic, but in this area I wish the developers had spent some time trying to iterate rather than in the ways that they chose to. It’s…just okay.
Puzzle mechanics will also feel very familiar to any Zelda fans here. Hit switches with your bow, sword, or other tools to make things actuate, push statues around onto pressure plates, etc. The puzzles aren’t particularly difficult, but they aren’t completely brain-dead either. You will likely make short work of most of them, which helps keep the game flowing.
Boss battles tended to be a bit more simplistic than even SNES-era Zelda games. There is however a very nice variety of enemy designs, so you’re not stuck fighting 6 different dragons for instance. The monsters designs were very creative, and I would put them on par with the inspiration material even if they were kind of pushovers.
Quest Log’s Modern Touch
I definitely appreciated the addition of a large quantity of quests with a quest log to keep track of it all. In Zelda there were far fewer side-objectives and absolutely no direction whatsoever for them. This, of course, was part of their charm but I’ll never say no to a game trying to respect my time and give me at least a nudge in the right direction. Or, hell, even just some context would’ve been nice sometimes in older games.
Crafting System Hopes Dashed
The crafting system in Ocean’s Heart is basic. I can’t think of any other way to describe it. It does no impact gameplay in a very meaningful way, but I can appreciate that the developers took the even more simplistic potion mixing system from Zelda and added a bit more complication to the process even if it doesn’t end up making a whole lot of difference. Here I would have liked to see more things like poisons for your weapons, or polymorph potions that let you blend in with monsters. Of course, that would mean that you would need some reason to use those things.
When I first started playing Ocean’s Heart, I had a lot of hope for an evolution on a formula I loved for decades growing up. Instead, what I got was — in essence — a poor man’s The Legend of Zelda from the 16-bit generation. Derivative isn’t a strong enough description, but rip-off seems a bit excessive. It definitely falls somewhere in the middle of that though. Like I said before, this game pushes up on the boundaries of what you might consider inspiration as opposed to plagiarism all the way down to the small details in the animations. So if your heart is clamoring for a bit more of SNES-era Zelda, you’ll probably have a grand time with Max Mraz’s throwback. As for me, I see Ocean’s Heart as a solid title and could have been a spiritual successor to one of my favorite series of all time. I hope the dev team takes another crack at it with an emphasis on expansion.