Fri

30

Aug

2013

Personal Experience with STORM, An Xbox Game


The whole point of video games is to do things you can't do in real life like to go on adventures, to save the princess, to travel to these crazy fantasy worlds of monsters and robots and zombies. But you know, Xbox games get so far from reality, it's refreshing to play one that appreciates what's real, you know? No lasers, no aliens, just air and water and life, real life. Sometimes, nothing's more interesting than reality. Of course, that's not to say Storm is a realistic game. Conjuring the wind and creating a thunderstorm doesn’t really qualify. But it is based in reality. This is a simplification of the processes we take for granted, the things we tend to ignore. We may not have dragons, but the world is a pretty cool place.

An Xbox game like this reminds you of that, as well as providing a relaxing contrast to what you were probably playing before. Storm is a puzzle game, based on physics...and nature. Its levels are little more than rocks and trees. Some grass, here and there. As well as a few patches of dirt. And it's basically a nature simulator. You have to get the seeds from full-grown trees to those bare patches of Earth. Once the seeds are planted on to the next level, it’s like Mother Earthbound. Obviously, the Xbox game centers on moving the seeds. You can't actually touch them, so your only option is to use the elements. Create a wind gust; cause a downpour, whatever it takes to get the seed from tree to soil. It starts easy enough, but as the seasons change the Storm gets unexpectedly complex. So it works like this. You start with one seed-bearing tree and limited elements.

Generally, there’s no way you're getting that seed to the dirt without getting more elements, which are scattered around the stage. There are wind orbs, rain orbs, lightning orbs...and you’ll need all of them to move the seeds. See, each element can essentially be powered up. If you collect three rain orbs, for example, you can summon rain three times in the same spot...which can cause far more serious flooding. Two lighting bolts in succession can cause rock to crumble so the more orbs you have, the greater the nature you can unleash. I love almost everything about this game, but specifically its tone. It's really just an aesthetic treat. It looks beautiful, the music is fantastic there's a sense of creation, and you know -- a kind of prehistory. There are no animals, certainly no people just Earth, in all its stunning glory, sharing the stage with life. And it makes for a beautiful puzzle game.

Of course, like life itself, Storm is far from perfect. Some of the puzzles get a little frustrating when they become less about strategy than performance. So you might have the right idea, but you still have to do it. Eventually, timing becomes almost as important as puzzle solving. Hit the right jump, destroy the right obstacle, Storm requires both planning and execution. And sometimes, that execution leaves just a bit to be desired. Fortunately, that's more like the lone cloud, in an otherwise sunny sky. Storm is an absolutely gorgeous game, as well as a genuinely clever puzzler. And you know, as much as we look to fiction to define our gaming experiences, there's something so brilliant about—for once—just looking outside.

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