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In Depth: Ocean's Heart

James Lees takes a look at the one-person developed game Ocean's Heart.

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Image Credit: Max Mraz, Solarus.

Ocean’s Heart is a poor man’s Zelda; there’s no two ways about it. It obviously and deliberately apes some of the earlier Zelda games, most notably A Link to the Past, but everything about it is just a little bit worse.

The one-person developed game knows you know what kind of game it is to such an extent that it doesn’t even bother setting up the story. No sooner have you started up, and the town has already been attacked by pirates, your best friend carried off, and your father missing. From there, it’s up to you to follow the trail and find whatever threads of a plot there might be lying around.

The game plays as you might expect. You explore dungeons filled with puzzles and monsters to get items with real-time combat. The variety here comes from the vast array of magic spells and weapons you can access and the potions that tie into the games’ upgrade and crafting system.

One of the game’s significant issues is that everything is just a little bit ‘off’. The world feels like it should be based on a grid system but isn’t, meaning you can frequently misjudge where you’re going. The UI and button mapping aren’t quite how you’d expect it and the roll button, being the same as the interact button with the floaty movement, often means that attempting to talk to somebody results in you diving past them for no real reason. There’s no huge deal breaker - nothing you could point to and say that this is wrong. One of the strangest things is that the text boxes seem to cause your eyes to roll off them, making reading rather tricky. There are just dozens of small, hardly noticeable niggles that make the game feel frustrating.

I’m very down on the game, but that's mostly because its influences overshadow it. Despite the handful of small issues, the combat is pretty good. There’s a good selection of monsters and weapons, and, with the addition of spells and abilities, there’s enough to stop it from getting boring. For it’s run-time, you’ll never be out of stuff to do.

With the game trying to build on some of the classic RPGs, it does very little to innovate. The design of the characters and enemies are uninspired, and there’s very little to surprise. The pixel art is perfectly serviceable but not what anyone would call beautiful. That said, some of the bosses make for a pretty good spectacle with a reasonably fun fight to boot.

Ultimately, Ocean’s Heart has very little to offer. It’s not a bad game by any stretch, but there’s just nothing new here. If you’re really into this sort of thing, then maybe pick it up a little bit down the road when it’s got a decent sale. Otherwise, why not have a look into Zelda randomisers?

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