Storm is an refreshing physics-based puzzle game in many ways, but there’s… stormy weather ahead. A terrible pun, I know. I rather like those things.
Storm XBLA: On the plus side
Storm casts you as… actually, I’ve got no idea, and the game doesn’t even try to provide a narrative. Let’s just say that you’re a weather god, because that’s pretty close to the reality of this particular puzzle game. A weather god with a real thing for trees.
Trees are GREAT, and you simply can’t get enough of them.
Every tree needs to start with a seed, though, and as a weather god, it’s your job to roll, wash, float and shift seeds from trees to areas of soil where trees will grow. Each level has a set number of seeds, a set number of puzzles, and a set number of environmental effects — wind, rain, lightning and so on — that you can use to get the seeds shifting in the direction you want them to go. The trailer does a good job of showing you pretty much everything this game has to offer. If you don’t like the trailer, there’s no way you’ll like the game.
Storm’s puzzles are tricky and often require a little lateral thinking, but they’re not astonishingly stressful. There’s no time limit, there’s no real failure state, there’s no score to aim for in the main game; it’s just a task of mind over seed-based matter. That gives it a rather chilled aesthetic for a puzzle game in the most part, although many solutions do require hitting the right storm effect at the right time in order for the current seed to continue along.
Storm’s visual aesthetic is deliberately simple, and for the most part, it works. There’s some disconnect in screen elements when you’re breaking them apart with lightning, and the water-spraying-all-over-the-screen effect is perhaps a little over-used, but those are minor quibbles.
Storm XBLA: On the minus side
Storm’s plot is non-existent, but even the tips provided don’t always make it clear what you’ve got to do early on. I got stuck for a while on an early level because it wasn’t clear that resetting the seed back to the previous tree doesn’t undo any other changes in the level. As such, you can use it (and you have to) to progress through some puzzles. Instead, I’d spent a good twenty minutes trying to float my seed up an impossible slope, getting ever more frustrated along the way.
Storm’s use of natural elements as puzzle shifters is cute, but it’s not always all that precise. The seed will stick in screen elements even when it shouldn’t, and the flow of wind and water over it isn’t always a predictable matter. Perhaps that’s meant to reflect chaos theory and nature, but it sometimes makes for a less than optimal gaming experience.
Storm’s puzzles are clever, but they’re also very much single state puzzles. There’s one solution, and that’s it, and once you’re done with it there’s no score or time to beat. As such, replayability isn’t great.
Storm XBLA: Pricing
Storm is available for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360; I reviewed the Xbox version which sells for 800 Microsoft points, or around $13.20.
Storm XBLA: Alex’s verdict
My opinion washes to and fro regarding Storm. On the one hand, I like the relaxed puzzle aesthetic it offers, which combines nicely with its presentation. On the other hand, I can’t ignore the fact that once I’ve completed a level, it’s done and dusted and I have no reason to return. It’s a little rough around the edges too. Still, as noted above, you can get a great feel for Storm simply by watching the trailer; if it looks like your sort of game then you’ll get enough out of it to be worthwhile; if you’re left wondering where the exploding skulls and half-naked babes are, it’s most definitely not your thing.