It’s spring, I wish someone had told the weather, but nevertheless, it’s spring (well actually officially summer now the longest day has passed). The trees have bud and blossomed and flowers have bloomed. Hay-fever sufferers have streaming eyes and equally runny noses and a hankering for Clarityn. With all this in mind, Eko Studios and IndiePub, through Namco Publishing have released a platform-puzzle game where you try to guide a seed from a tree to some fertile soil.
So, for reasons that will become apparent later, the game is called Storm and rather than kick up a storm, it’s a little bit more of a damp squib. Michael Fish would have had no problems predicting the conditions in this. Here’s why.
Storm, it’ll set you back a reasonable 800 MS Points and it’s a rather disappointingly meagre 230MB. So at current exchange rates, it’s about £6.50, which on the face of it, seems a bit of a bargain. As explained earlier, Storm is a puzzler where you have to guide a seed to fertile land so it can flourish and the tree can magically grow and everyone can feel the full effects of that wonderful hay-fever. To guide this seed you have the power of the elements. These elements will then let you push, float and destroy the environment around the seed so it can be moved safely to its happy, comfy resting place.
As a puzzle game, the concept doesn’t fail; it has some challenging levels and the introduction of recharge for the element you’re using certainly makes you think. As you progress, each level will introduce either a new way to move that seed or the addition of an extra charge for the element you already have. Not only this but the seasons progress from Spring throughout the story mode. Of the elements, the wind feature is particularly annoying. It’s particularly tricky to control the direction and with this being a major feature of the gameplay, it lets it down badly. The other elements are more, well, elemental in their design. The rain falls and floods the areas where it needs to lift the seed, the sun shines and warm things up, tornadoes lift the seed onto other levels – it’s all about the combination of the elements. The right combination will get your seed to its happy little place, all snuggled up and warm in the ground.
So the concept is pretty simple and quite original and the graphics are quite attractive although in some places it’s difficult to determine which way you’re supposed to be blowing or flowing your seed as the foreground and play level area seem to mingle a little too well. This makes it difficult to see where your seed will end up next, or where it needs to go. The fertile soil area is highlighted and there are levels where multiple seeds need to be guided, but there is a real lack in any sense of urgency in the main game. The levels are designed in such a way that means there’s usually only one way to complete them and when you get stuck, which you inevitably will, there’s no indication of the predicament you’re in and it’s up to you to figure it out. There is a seed regeneration option though, which is a saving grace, but without level checkpoints, you may find yourself making the same mistakes and becoming frustrated. Some objects within the levels are there to be moved to block dangerous places or prevent your seed from falling into endless pits. These have the same dodgy physics as the seed and inevitably, they don’t end up where you want them and you’re left unable to complete the rest of the level. This turns into more of a luck based achievement instead of player skill and any sense of joy you may feel in destroying a boulder might quickly turn into a howl in frustration, movie-style as a lightning bolt pierces your cries.
The sounds are pretty standard, nothing special to be honest. The wind makes a gusty noise, the rain patters and there’s a sedate backing track that runs throughout the game. This doesn’t help with the game’s lack of urgency as it was starting to make me drowsy. So that’s the story mode, there’s no story, no villain, no reason for you trying to get that uneven, egg-like seed to its resting place. It’s like removing Dizzy’s arms and legs and attacking him with a high powered hairdryer mounted on a spring loaded platform.
If the thrills of the adventure mode are too much for you, then you can always try the challenge and spirit modes, but to be frank, the physics are the same, the puzzles become samey and you’ll find yourself in that same rage you felt when the wind blew your ice cream away at the seaside. On the basis of this, I can’t recommend Storm without trying the demo first to see if it’s your cup of char. While 800 Points isn’t a lot in the grand scheme of things, you’re going to feel a bit of a berk for shelling out on it when in reality, its pedestrian, with unruly physics that would send Stephen Hawking into a strutting, snarling fury. Yes, the graphics are pretty, and yes, the concept is something that Eko Studios should be extremely happy with, but the frustrating gameplay, unrelenting monotony of the levels, the lack of checkpoints and the total lack of tutorials, you will be left with that wet weekend in Wisbech feeling. It could’ve been a warm front of a game, in the end, it’s as welcome as a damp squall at the vicar’s tea party, which for the eco-friendly tree-huggers amongst us, is a very big shame indeed.