Storm Boy (Switch) Review
Release Date: November 20, 2018
Publisher/Developer: Level 77/Blowfish Studios
Platform: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam, iOS, Android
Storm Boy is a wonderfully crafted title telling a story that (to my understanding) is based off of a classic children's book in Australia written back in 1964. While two different movies have been made from the same book, I'm sad to say that it will take me longer to write this review than it took to complete the game.
Storm Boy lives on the coast of South Australia with his widowed father. They spend their time on the shore, conversing with their next door neighbor and living a simple life. One day, the boy comes across some orphaned pelican chicks. One of them befriends him and becomes a faithful pet and friend. The story is told through text in the sky as you walk the boy down the beach and through the story.
As a video game reviewer, I feel that by default Storm Boy is not going to appease most of the readers of the site. The game is split into four chapters. There are nine mini games you run across as the story progresses, like feeding the pelicans, searching for clams on the beach, or swimming around in the ocean. The minigames encourage you to take as much time as you want playing around with them. They are very zen-like and don't have any real consequences or awards. It's a bit jarring from a gamer's perspective when the game says "you can collect 100 of these," you scour the sand and find them all, and...nothing. Or if you are sliding down the beach on a piece of cardboard and there are no consequences for hitting obstacles or missing them. The game is a story first and foremost. Even spending a satisfying amount of time on each and every mini game, I reached the end of the story and my Switch clocked only twenty minutes of play.
Perhaps to a native Australian who grew up reading Colin Thiele's classic book or a youth hearing the story for the first time this game would hold more weight. Without spoiling anything the lessons learned in the end are hard ones that may leave a lot of questions for your child, so I suggest playing through it once beforehand to understand it rather than just buy a cute book for your kids.
I enjoyed my time with Storm Boy, but admit that if I'd have paid the $5.99 hoping to get an interactive version of a classic children's book I'd end up disappointed. The American equivalent would be if there was a Poky Little Puppy video game, and you ran him under the fence to the hill and back four times before the game was over and that's it. You can see all the game has to offer in less than 20 minutes. Some of the activities are very "zen" but with literally no feedback or response, even if you do everything you can. There was one frustrating part where a minigame's main background was white, and the text was white as well making it unreadable. You literally walk to the right, read, and play one button mini games. I tried to hit B to see what would happen, how Storm Boy would interact, and it pops you back to the main menu. The touchscreen controls are appreciated but it just further shows that the "game" could be purchased on an iPad for the same experience. Which, by the way, the iPhone version is available for $2.99.
-Wonderfully crafted art and character design
-Soft, soothing music and zenlike minigames
-A beautiful retelling of a classic children's tale
-Doesn't really fit as a "game" with no real motivation to succeed at the minigames
-I saw all there is to see in 20 minutes
-Don't buy unless you see someone enjoying it multiple times
Special thanks to Level 77/Blowfish Studios for providing a copy of the game for review