Colin Thiele’s Storm Boy is getting the big-screen treatment, but first up here’s our review of the video game.
A lot of games, particularly the most popular ones, either aim to blow your socks off with blistering action and heart-pounding combat or try to make you feel completely immersed in a living and breathing world with punchy narratives and near infinite side quests. Storm Boy isn’t either of these types of games. However, this thoughtful and melancholic adaptation of a popular Australian children’s book really isn’t trying to be and it’s something to be thankful for.
The story of Colin Thiele’s Storm Boy may be unfamiliar to many, but it is hugely popular in Australia. The tale has spawned several adaptations and, to coincide with its 55th Anniversary, a live-action adaptation starring Jai Courtney (Suicide Squad, Divergent) and Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech, Pirates of the Caribbean) will be released in 2019.
After playing the game, the enduring interest in this heart-warming story for children is not surprising. The story promotes positive messages about nature, friendship and growing up yet never feels overwhelming. Storm Boy also encourages adventure and exploration but manages maintain its calm tone. The narrative is told through text slowly fading in and out of the screen as you make your way across the seaside scenery and centres around the titular character and his father, Hide-Away Tom, following their relocation to Southern Australia following death of Storm Boy’s mother. They meet a couple of characters along the way who impact the story to varying degrees, but the most important companion is Mr. Percival, a pelican whom Storm Boy looks after throughout the tale. The game isn’t long and, therefore, the story can only accommodate about one twist and one turn. However, the short runtime means there is definitely enough to hold interest in a game which is largely focused on providing a leisurely and emotionally soothing experience.
Despite the above average quality of the plot, the main impact of the narrative experience is achieved with the way in which the story is presented. Few games utilise game mechanics, music and imagery in the masterful way in which they coexist in Storm Boy. When Storm Boy is playing on the beach, he’ll run around with Mr. Percival eagerly following behind as lucid tones melt into the sound of tumbling waves. When Storm Boy faces his toughest test, he charges across the beach as the music takes a turn for the frightening and the waves become roaring. All of this is assisted by the visuals which feel like what you’d imagine when you think of the picture books of your childhood in moving form. A simple art style but powerful and often beautiful with its striking variations in backdrops, from a dark and imposing storm to a warm and gentle sunset.
The game elements of Storm Boy are perhaps the most interesting aspect in terms of how the studio chose to develop interactions which would match with the overall feeling of the game. Despite being fairly inconsequential to the story, as the player can only fail in one of the mini games (which you can then skip following a couple of failures), the tasks play a key part in making Storm Boy a calming pick up and play experience. Each task manifests from context and there are six in total, from Storm Boy retrieving cockles for supper to playing catch with Mr. Percival. The common theme for each game is that they aren’t encouraging the player to beat anything, more slowing down the pace of the overall game and inviting the player to just get lost in some menial and aimless messing around. This fits perfectly with sense of wonder and playfulness that the story, visuals and music all inspire.
Storm Boy is one of the least taxing games around, a tense experience it is not. The game provides a setting for the player to get lost in a beautiful depiction of the Southern Australian coast through the wide-eyes of a curious young boy. For less than £5, Storm Boy is definitely worth experiencing – especially if you’re looking to de-stress.
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