Nature, the one thing in life we simply couldn’t live without. Without nature there’s no oxygen, no animals to eat, no plants. Nature is, simply put, life. The word originates from the Latin ‘natura’, meaning essential qualities/innate disposition. Nature is a language we all understand, no matter what our backgrounds, our race, religion; nature is one thing we all have in common. Yet, there aren’t really many games out there that are about nature or that hold nature themes at their core. Odd when you think about it, most of the popular games are based around stuff very important to our core, war, survival, exploration, folklore, so why not nature?
Well, the people of Eko Software are here to take on the theme of nature in their most recent release, Storm. Storm is all about nature and you, the player, experiencing tranquil nature in a game filled with atmosphere. But why should you play through this digital immersive experience instead of just going outside to a field? Well, to satisfy the game hungry side of you as well as the nature loving side, Storm focus’ on nature-based platforming and puzzle solving. The game starts by explaining that through using elements – wind, lightning and rain – the player must navigate a seed to fertile soil elsewhere in the level. No indication is given as to how you use the wind when you’re first put into the game, this may be to add to the puzzle aspect but alas it doesn’t work particularly well in a game focused on immersion.
Wind, Rain and lightning are all controlled by the mouse buttons; left click for wind, right for rain and middle for lightening, which may cause some issues for those who do not have a mouse/have a laptop as you will have to try to assigned buttons to the lightening. This sounds simple but the game can be a little buggy, it refuses to minimize and often loaded up flickering/flashing to the point it was unplayable sometimes though after a while this problem faded but it’s definitely worth noting. Players can move the seed (of which there are two types – regular, which can float and heavy that cannot) by using all of the elements in a variety of ways. While wind can be used to blow the seed, rain will flood closed off areas and make logs float and/or cause bubble which can be used to provide your seed with height. Finally, lightening, this can be used to launch the seed in the air and collapse weak rock areas or destroy logs. These elements cannot be spammed as they have a cool down period, however as players progress through levels they will find pickups of the elements which will allow for an extra use of the element.
Developers have tried hard to emphasise the nature and immersive/atmospheric theme throughout the gameby focusing on a tranquil journey through the seasons which envelops the player in the atmosphere. One of the best ways to inform themes in the game is through visuals and aesthetics, which Storm does very well – levels are very grassy places, often with trees, thorns, hills, logs and rocks. The colours of the levels are made up of a variety of Earthy hues –greens, browns and greys, all very earthly colours (apart from blue for the sky of course!). Storm’s music, names and menus also inform the nature/tranquil theme. The music is very calm (though somewhat repetitive) and often features the sound of birds. Levels are not called levels, they are called ‘Day 1 of Spring’ for example, and menus are on trees with a branch acting as a select arrow. Whilst these may seem like little touches to the game, all of it adds together to try to eliminate any break from the immersion the player is meant to feel when playing Storm.
The gameplay for Storm is not as strong as the concept. Controls are not very responsive, for example, there is a delay in the player clicking for lightening and lightening appearing on screen. Due to the unresponsive controls and the elements not being very precise, sometimes what should be a fairly simple puzzle can result in players having to restart the entire level.
Even with its flaws, Storm is certainly an interesting little indie platform/puzzle game that has the potential to become much bigger. It’s hard to fault Eko Software for Storm simply because of the controls, they certainly tried to create something unique a bit different to regular platform/puzzle games. There are a few gameplay issues which in turn effects immersion, meaning Storm doesn’t quite achieve what it set out to do. The foundations are there – an engaging and simple game in which a player takes a trip into nature by controlling elements to help plants grow – but alas the rest of the build is a little poor. However, with a few updates/patches from Eko Software there is no doubt that Storm could become one of those little indie games that has promise. Perhaps some DLC/changes to add more interesting elements to the game, maybe being able to work in real life issues like deforestation or pollution would make the game more engaging and intriguing to viewers. Perhaps adding the use of more elements/weather such as thunder or snow would add more depth and result in different types of puzzles. Storm is a little rough around the edges, however if you like unique puzzles and are interested in indie games that try to push genres and boundaries then Storm is a game you need to put on your to buy list. It is currently available on Steam for an honourable £6.99 (£5.24 if you purchase before the 4th of July 2013). It will also be available on XBLA and the PSN store this summer.
To conclude I would give this game and overall score of 3 out of 5, a good effort and original idea that is full of potential from Eko Software, however some apparent flaws that can be improved in due course.
Buy the game on Steam http://store.steampowered.com/app/231020/
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.