The realm of the indies has spawned a wealth of imaginative games in years past. Braid, Bastion, Pid, Minecraft, Journey, Papo & Yo, the list is long enough to wrap around the Earth several times over. The majority of them, which there never appear to be enough of, seem to be puzzlers and platformers--or even puzzle-platformers--and each of them have their own unique concept. EKO Software’s Storm is no different.
Storm undoubtedly has one of the simplest concepts out of the entire indie library, and yet it’s still rather unique. Your goal: navigate seeds to each patch of fertile soil so they can grow into trees. But that’s where it stops being simple as you also have to carry the seed across several of Mother Nature’s obstacle courses while using her arsenal of elements: wind, rain and lightning. This may seem like a small number of items at your disposal, but for me, they’re actually enough, especially considering the different ways in which you can use these elements.
You can use the wind to push the seed along the terrain, rain to lift it from a basin and roll it onto land, and lightning to make the seed leap over obstacles. But not only do you need to move the seed from point A to point B, you can also manipulate parts of the environment in each new level. For instance you can use lightning to strike down a weak rocky structure and cause a small avalanche of boulders to block a tunnel or basin, or you can use it to light certain fields of grass on fire which may be used as a chain reaction for other nearby patches of grass or for tree logs. Currents from the rain can create bubbles in certain places which seeds can be carried in and can move tree logs and put out fires while wind can cause fires to spread quicker and easier.
Like all puzzlers, things in Storm start out simple to introduce one new concept at a time and then give you a chance to get used to it before moving on the next one. Eventually, as would be expected, the levels increase in difficulty as you try to navigate the seed through more complicated courses in order to reach every patch of fertile soil. However, this is where the game can annoy and maybe even frustrate.
Once the difficulty started to kick in, I felt I was at the mercy of the game’s physics engine. There was a time when a log wouldn’t budge with the current from the rain so it would move down a hill. There would be no other way for me to move it, so I just had to keep on using the rain until the seed finally cooperated. At another time, a seed just wouldn’t rise fast enough from the surface of a pool I created so that it could roll onto some land nearby. And because this game relies on a physics engine, there’s bound to be some precision, timing and luck involved. Storm seems to ask for a little too much precision when trying to move a seed through a level, and it can be hard not to get annoyed when you misjudge a lightning jump or are too slow to push a seed up a hill before it falls into a pit that you can’t get it out of.
What I love about puzzle games like Limbo and Portal is that they’re foolproof. The only time that you mess up and need to start a level over is when you die. In Storm, if you mess up just one part of a puzzle, you’re screwed and have to restart the level from the very beginning, even if you’ve reached a checkpoint. As you progress into the more challenging puzzles in the game, you quickly realize there’s a specific order in which you need to execute your strategy to bring the seeds to each patch of soil. If the order isn’t done right, you have to start over. There was certainly some trial and error to be had throughout the game. That was fine; I was prepared for that partway through. They just required quite a bit of patience for me to get through them.
Storm is indeed pretty to look at and has soothing music that puts you at ease while you try to solve its puzzles. You can also hear birds and geese as the fly in the background, making things feel even more atmospheric and it’s actually really nice to hear as it helps to draw me in. When it’s all said and done, it is a solid puzzle game. Controlling the elements feels functional enough but it definitely would have benefited from a litter better execution and maybe even from being able to use them more freely. If you love solving complicated puzzles and don’t mind spending the 800 MS points, then I can recommend checking out the game. However if you’re like me and can get a little annoyed or frustrated with excessive trial and error, then it’s probably better that you decide not to weather this storm.