Blowfish Studios’ newest venture is an attempt to translate a beloved children’s story into a game. It’s an interesting proposition as nowadays we rarely see story adaptations in the games industry, let alone a book to game adaptation. It poses many challenges unique to this situation, some of which Blowfish Studios handle with great ease. But the whole experience gets marred down by a few glaring issues.
As for that story, and it all takes place in Australia, placing you in the shoes of a young boy named Storm Boy. After the death of his mother years before the start of the game, you and your father have moved to live in isolation by the sea. Quickly you find some abandoned baby pelicans, but the time spent between finding them and them suddenly being all grown up is near instant. There is almost no time to develop a real connection to these birds.
While the story, and as a result the game, attempts to explore darker and more mature themes, including loneliness and death, it never seems to execute any of this as well as it should due to its rushed nature. This really is a shame because from the little bit you do get to experience, you begin to care for the characters within. Unfortunately it never reaches the level that the story’s heartfelt ending aims for, mostly because it is so short that it is possible to 100% everything found in it in less than an hour.
One of the biggest hurdles when translating any story from a book is the imagery. When reading a book everyone imagines a scene or character differently. This is a problem that Blowfish Studios handles effortlessly. From the opening scene of an overcast day on the beach, to the beautiful yet sombre sunset, this game’s visuals blew me away. Storm Boy goes for a low poly look for its character models, which helps to accentuate its beautiful environments. While the game doesn’t possess many different locales, each one is filled with foliage that is brimming with colour and life. The animals that you see flying around or making themselves at home on the sand dunes just help with this vitality.
On top of this, throughout Storm Boy you hear this beautiful melody that helps create a sense of calm early on in the story. But as this coming-of-age story progresses, the once calming theme becomes one of heartache. It’s amazing what Blowfish Studios have been able to do by pairing the amazing visuals and beautiful music.
The gameplay by comparison is basic to say the least. For the most part you are just running right, reading text as it fades in and out telling the story, with the occasional forced – and sometimes optional – mini-game popping up. These games help break up the story and create a sense of attachment between you, Mr. Percival the pelican and your father. The game contains nine different mini-games, all of which you can play through individually should you like to revisit them from the main menu.
These mini-games themselves are rather simple and easy to beat, ranging from playing fetch with your pet pelican until your heart’s content, to saving a sinking ship. None of these last long though, often giving you the opportunity to keep playing until you feel the need to want to move on. That is all well and good because some of the mini-games provide environments that leave you wanting to explore, like one that tasks you with swimming in the ocean with Mr. Percival, exploring the sea and what lies beneath it. For the most part, your time spent in these environments will last less than 5 minutes though, unless of course you find yourself attempting to gather up all the Achievements. This simple gameplay doesn’t hurt Storm Boy however, doing the job intended by creating a bond, whilst never becoming too distracting that you lose focus from the story.
The biggest issue with Storm Boy comes from its length. Without a word of a lie, it can be beat within 15 minutes, while still playing some of the few optional mini games. This is great because the mini games themselves do not have much substance, but it is a shame because the story never gets the chance to develop like you would like it to.
Author Colin Thiele, the man who wrote the original book decades ago, was famous for a number of children’s stories including this one of Storm Boy, and I can’t help but feel that a collection of short games based on his stories would have fared better than this singular outing. Being able to purchase a handful of short narratives like this, in the same beautiful art style would definitely help in creating a solid experience. While I cant claim to be the intended audience, at the price of $5.99/£4.99, it’s still a tricky one to recommend, mainly due to the largest issues that stem from the underdeveloped story and short overall length.
While the game is beautiful in both its environment and music, there is little to come back for after your first experience.