The following post is the debut post from Matthew, our latest party member to Gaming & God. He wrote a review on Oceanhorn 2, which takes some ideas from Legend of Zelda. Hope you enjoy, please say hi to our newest writer and let us know if you’ve played Oceanhorn!
Christmas 1998 was a pivotal time for me. It molded a lot of who I am today, if not, bare minimum, refined what I was. Details notwithstanding: on Christmas morning I opened the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (OOT), and my life was changed from the moment the sword and shield emblazoned logo in front of a rearing horse and rider crossed my screen.
I was 12 at the time and a lot of my life was in a constant state of uncertainty. My parents were in the midst of a rough divorce, and I often found purpose and meaning in the land of Hyrule, where OOT takes place. The Great Deku Tree, a protector and literal tree in the forest, needed MY help, Saria had a song for ME and a gift, and I had a quest: save Hyrule from the loathsome Demon King: Ganondorf.
Reflecting on that time in my life informs much of how I approach life now. I fully embrace the unknown, finding peace in the fact that God is all-knowing. I have adopted this saying, “every day is an adventure.” Whether sincere or sometimes sarcastic on those rough days, I hold fast to this. I can find thankfulness in every situation, and every situation presents itself as an opportunity for adventure. The moment the phrase leaves my lips, my mind recalls an image of Link, the main protagonist, standing in front of the Deku Tree, ready to enter through its mouth and embark on the unknown, trusting his calling and purpose. It’s powerful, and I thank God for it.
My life has been hallmarked by several LoZ games, and I have an incredibly soft spot for the franchise, even embracing some of the “weaker entries” in the series like Spirit Tracks *cough cough*, as it plainly lays out the adventuring spirit, and I am attracted to that. When I learned of a series similar to LoZ coming to mobile gaming, I was stoked! The game was called Oceanhorn and it boasted an isometric view, highly detailed graphics, puzzles, a clear enemy, Kenji Ito and Nobuo Uematsu composing music, and an expansive world for a mobile game. Simply put: I had a LoZ itch and this game looked like it might just scratch it.
While completing Oceanhorn I learned of a second game in the series and this time it flaunted full 3D, beautiful graphics (for a mobile game), and had that Breath of the Wild flavor. I will save anyone’s curiosity now and tell you to not compare it to Breath of the Wild. It’s not a fair comparison, but I didn’t have a Nintendo Switch and I had a hankering for LoZ and this carried a strong resemblance at first look.
I sped through Oceanhorn, doing my best to 100% complete it before Oceanhorn 2 was released: I succeeded! After completing it, I had a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. The beginning of the game flowed fairly well, it felt Zelda-esque, and the music honestly won me over. I couldn’t get used to the touch controls and broke down and bought a mobile gaming controller. This helped some, but I kept finding bugs in the game (and if you’ve played the game, you know there are a LOT of bug creatures, so I want to assure you that my statement is no pun), some of which would get me stuck and set me back a decent distance or span of time, having to close the app and restart it at the most recent saved game.
To top it off, there is an extremely cryptic clue to beating the final boss in its final iteration that can only be reached if you don’t make the easy mistake of approaching the first iteration of the boss from the wrong angle. Literally, if you approach the final boss from the wrong angle, it becomes impossible to beat. A bit discouraged, I powered my way through to the final iteration, only to learn the “secret” to beating the FINAL final boss.
After completing the game I felt relatively uncertain for my forthcoming adventure. Seeing the graphical upgrades in Oceanhorn 2, I set my feelings aside because I wanted to be excited to move on to the sequel. When I started up Oceanhorn 2, I got Windwaker vibes, the title screen all water and archipelago laden: it drew me in. The graphics were beautiful, the game was colorful and very inviting!
If the Zelda team ever decided to create something for the mobile platform, I envision something along the lines of Oceanhorn 2. I allowed the game to wrap itself around me, sinking many hours into it, simply exploring, walking around, talking to people, swiping my sword at this and that, and breaking EVERY pot that came into my field of view!
Oceanhorn 2 suffers from the same sort of issues the first installment did, namely that the story doesn’t really feel cohesive, the further you get into the game the more things start to fall apart. Not to mention during gameplay I felt that I was fighting to simply press on because the game had lost a lot of its charm and not because I was feeling drawn to some higher calling. God, where had the adventure gone? It was discouraging, and I honestly wrestled with God a bit to press on.
I had argued with God about this game, why was it striking out for me? My resolve finally sided with God and rested on my desire for adventure. “Every day is an adventure” had become my motivator and encouragement. While games can become an escape for many, this had not become that for me; this had become a movement of devotion for the sake of completion and trust. This was something I had to put effort into. It had become a discipline.
All that being said, the game still checked many LoZ-style boxes for me and had some decent moments of progress: primarily, being able to swim underwater. Water was a scary element in an H2O laden Arcadia, so finding a diving helmet brought back silver and golden scale memories from OOT as well as Majora’s Mask Zora vibes. The sea is a great and mysterious place in Arcadia, however, it is also mostly void outside of the initial area where the helmet is found. There are some areas dotting already explored areas instigating a back tracking “side quest” style missions to return to areas with underwater chests.
At this point, I have adventured for nearly 45 hours on a mobile game, and while not all of it felt adventuresome, it was still adventure. That honest realization grounds me as I open my mind to the possibilities of the term “adventure” more and more. Adventure is and always has been what you make of it. The comfortable clicking of controllers buttons or keyboard and mouse, the light padding on touch screens, or writing a business report or cooking eggs for breakfast: therein lies adventure. Our relationship with God is an adventure and He is the Grand Adventurer: knowing every twist, turn, triumph, and tumult. We will never experience a moment like now. We will never feel a pain, annoyance, slight, or forgiveness like we are feeling now. There is adventure in all of this; something to be learned, to be gained. Perhaps we learn how to fail gracefully, to succeed humbly, to complain equitably, and to right wrongs amiably. God is our Guide and He uses His Word to lead us on. We are to be encouraged by this all day for as long as it is called today. Today never stops. We live in the ephemeral now to one day be wholly joined with our Grand Adventurer in the Eternal Now, and what an adventure that will be!
Oceanhorn 2 may have been a minor blip on the radar of my quest to find more Zelda-like games, but it was a humble, not-so-subtle, reminder that God is still Good, that God allows us to experience things for His wild and awesome purposes, and that our simple embrace of His Word quietly draws us along, keeping us in step with the Holy Spirit.
Hebrews 3:13 Amplified Bible (AMP)
13 But continually encourage one another every day, as long as it is called “Today” [and there is an opportunity], so that none of you will be hardened [into settled rebellion] by the deceitfulness of sin [its cleverness, delusive glamour, and sophistication].