Storm Boy: The Game (Switch eShop) Review
Storm Boy is a Australian classic (even more so a South Australian classic) written by Colin Thiele in 1964. It is a tale of the titular Storm Boy and his best friend Mr. Percival the Pelican. The book was made into a film (also a classic) in 1976, with another adaptation due out early 2019. Australian developer Blowfish Games has released an interactive retelling of the Storm Boy story, providing their own take on Colin Thiele’s work. So is Storm Boy a strong ocean gust that blew me away, or a slight breeze that barely kicks up some sand?
Storm Boy the game starts off with our main character Storm Boy walking along a beach in the Coorong. Text from the book appears on the screen as you walk across. It introduces the boy’s Dad Hide-Away Tom, and a friend who lives on the Coorong Fingerbone Bill. The story is mostly about Storm Boy finding and raising three pelicans, notably one called Mr. Percival. This is a story about how Storm Boy and Mr. Percival were best of friends. The appearing text is what you’ll experience for most of the game for the story. This retelling takes place solely along the dunes of the Coorong as parts of the story appears on screen until you come upon one of nine minigames that relate to the text in some way. These are described as ‘relaxing’ minigames.
One of the first you’ll encounter is digging up cockles on the beach. This consists of moving around the beach either by the joycon stick or by dragging your finger around the screen, until you see the bubble on the sand. Then you hit the A button or tap the screen on the bubble until it digs up a Cockle, your Cockle count goes up by one, and you move on to the next Cockle. Repeat until you leave the minigame.
This is where you immediately run into the problem that plagues nearly every one of these minigames – they don’t go anywhere. They’re an interactive moment, but there’s no goal or any form of accomplishment. ‘Relaxing’ games still generally have a purpose or a goal, it shouldn’t mean ‘keep doing the one action until you’re bored and hit the exit button’. I could go down the road of “maybe I’m too old for this” and that this interactive experience is for kids, but there’s no reason a child would get any more out of it either if minigames just keep going. Another minigame is throwing a ball for Mr. Percival the Pelican to catch. You can throw it as far as possible and Mr. Percival will fetch it, throw it close and he will catch it. You just keep doing it until you choose to leave the minigame. The minigames feel incomplete, as if someone forgot to put an ending into each game. If the purpose of a minigame is to complement the interactive story, then the minigames don’t do the narrative justice, because those moments are aimless and don’t add to the story.
I commend Blowfish for sticking to the text from the novel, but with a book at 60 pages it’s hard to see why so much of the story in the game is given out without enough context. In giving the shortest, snappiest version of the story possible, it feels stripped of personality. Overall, it feels like a missed opportunity to take elements from the book and use elements from the movies to flesh out the characters, like the 1976 movie did. All in all it took less than half an hour to experience the story and to spend a few minutes with each minigame, trying to find any kind of reason for continuing to play them.
There’s moments in the game that look quite nice, largely the scenery. The animation throughout can get a bit rough at times, but in the overall scheme of things that’s pretty minor. The music is also lovely — sure it feels like you’re hearing the same music over and over for the first half, but it is not so bad. Except as it highlights how brief the whole experience is.
Storm Boy is very difficult to recommend. There are some nice (but very limited) visuals and music, but there is also very little content combined with minigames that serve no purpose, to the point of feeling incomplete. The selling price isn’t high, but it’s cheaper to pick up the original novel for the Kindle, and you’ll own a classic book too.
+ Some nice scenery
+ Nice music
- Half an hour of content
- Minigames lack goals
- Minigames feel incomplete
- Story lacks context