Title: Storm Boy: The Game
Available on: Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC, iOS, Android
Developer: Blowfish Studios
Publisher: Blowfish Studios
Genre: Interactive Novel
Official Site: https://www.blowfishstudios.com/game/storm-boy/
Release Date: November 11th, 2018
It’s not every day I get to play a story oriented video game adaptation of a children’s novel. I went into this game completely blind to any expectations or theories of what I was getting myself into. There’s plenty of visual novels in my Steam library and general reading is a hobby of mine but this specific idea of a children’s novel as a game is pretty foreign to me. On the whole, there’s actually a lot to praise in regard to how good Storm Boy is.
Just to be clear, you aren’t getting much play time out of this. Considering Storm Boy on Switch will set you back $5.99, the forty-minute story is very short. There’s also the issue that both the mobile version and the novel itself cost less. iOS and Android versions of this exact same game are half the price and a brand new copy of the novel is only a little more than that. A quick check of the novel to see how much there was to it showed me pretty quickly that if you want a truly emotive story, the book is the way to go. The mobile versions have more merit than the Switch version due to their lower price but even then it’s a stretch to recommend it.
For what it is, Storm Boy is by no means a bad game. The narrative follows a friendship that forms between the Storm Boy himself and his pelican, Mr. Percival. It’s a calming tale of two friends living out their time together until the day finally comes when they must go their separate ways. It’s genuinely touching and Blowfish Studios have done a decent job of evoking the emotions of the original novel with this game.
The problem is that with it being so short you don’t get that same familiarity that Colin Thiele originally intended for his reader to feel. There’s not enough time for you, as the player, to feel all that much empathy with Storm Boy, Mr. Percival, or anyone else. The story begins and then it ends. The lack of substance in the middle really hurts the overall narrative and if you’re anything like me, you’ll finish the game wondering how it’s already over.
To Storm Boy’s credit, I did want more. I finished the game in one sitting and was genuinely invested in the relationship of Percival and Storm Boy but, without reading the novel, I’d never get that much-needed character development. So what’s the point? Why would you want to pick this over the actual novel if it’s just an inferior version? Certainly, it’s a far lighter tale and on mobile, there’s some value in that. You could start this up during an extended lunch break and be done with it shortly after. On Switch, though it just feels out of place. On a console that hosts the likes of Super Mario Odyssey, Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the new Super Smash Bros, was this really needed? That’s not to say I ever expected Storm Boy to compete with Nintendo’s finest, but I feel it should have aimed to be more than just another mobile game on Switch.
As for the actual gameplay it’s effectively broken down into three parts. Reading the narrative, walking around and playing mini-games. Looking around other critic’s reviews, there’s an awful lot of harsh criticism aimed at these mini-games. Personally, I disagree that they are pointless or a waste of time. They serve a purpose to put you into Storm Boy’s shoes to try and allow you to empathize with him to build up the emotional ending.
They aren’t executed magnificently but they aren’t all that bad either. They serve their purpose well enough and honestly expecting something overly involved and gameplay focused from an interactive novel seems a little unfair on the developers. Outside of the minigames, there’s not much to the gameplay experience. I’m sure you can imagine the various walking simulators out there. That’s basically what Storm Boy is with some visual novel narration thrown in there for good measure.
Verdict: Storm Boy is a relaxed, wholesome tale that’s too short and on several platforms where it feels out of place. For the modest price, there’s enough there to offer a fine experience but you’ll either finish thinking it wasn’t for you or that there should have been more content. Re-release this as a four-hour interactive story with actual time to develop empathy with the protagonist and you’ve got a great little game. As it stands though, it’s just okay.
- Very relaxed and easy to play through in one sitting
- Mini-games work well enough to create genuine empathy
- Very cheap title. Not losing much even if you don't enjoy it
- Far too short
- Being available on a wide range of platforms is nice for accessibility but you need to try and fulfill the expectations of said platform owners. This does not have the expected content of a Nintendo Switch title