If you've had your fill of video games packed with sex, violence, and bad language - then the new puzzler Storm, available now on Xbox Live, is for you. Arriving with a peaceful ambient soundtrack, light winds, and gentle spring rain, Storm starts quietly but soon ramps up the pressure. By the end you'll be combining lightning strikes and gale force winds to complete around fifty challenging levels of nature based gameplay.
The game is divided into four seasons. The first thirteen levels, which make up Spring, are a gentle introduction to the gameplay. In the top right corner of a beautiful bucolic setting, a large seed hangs from a tree. Your job is to move the seed from the tree, across the two dimensional environment, to a small clearing where the seed can sprout into a new tree. To do this you get control of wind, rain, and lightning.
In a typical level you might hold your cursor to the right of the tree a send a gust of wind to the left to knock the seed down. When the seed falls into a hollow you send down a shower of rain to fill the hollow and wash the seed back onto the ground. Then as the seed rolls down a hill you can blast rocks out of its way with some lightning so the seed can reach a small patch of earth were a second tree sprouts, and the level is complete.
Like the best puzzle games, it starts very simply. You settle in expecting a gentle difficulty curve, and a few good hours of relaxing puzzling. But Storm increases the difficulty pretty quickly. The environment starts to fill up with steep hills, gullies, logs, rocks, and caverns. So you have to find extra charges for your wind and rain. It soon becomes more than just a matter of problem solving, and more a test of aim, timing, and anticipation.
Before you make it from Spring to Summer there will be steep hills that take three well-aimed gust of wind for the seed to reach the top. Or two perfectly placed rain showers that create a current that carries the seed in the right direction. Or you may need a perfectly placed lightning strike that hits the rocks beneath the seed at just the right time to bounce the seed across a bottomless crevasse. By the time Spring is done, you'll have to master and combine all three elements, know their recharge times, and be quick and precise in their placement.
And that is just in Spring. Summer, Autumn, and Winter all have their own challenges as the environment becomes less hospitable and the storms under your control become more powerful.
Puzzle games are difficult to get right. If they're too easy, they are pointless. But too hard and gamers will give up; returning back to the more comforting climate of gunplay, gear sticks, sport sims, and spell casting. Storm almost gets it right. Be careful though, because there are some early traps that might stop gamers dead in their tracks. Also, something is a bit weird with the hints. Occasionally a hint will only open after you've figured it out. And although there is the free mode, and the timed spirit mode that unlocks as you complete levels, there is nothing to do online.
While it possibly might be me, with my brain going into mid-Winter hibernation, sometimes Storm feels like it's moved past being a relaxing Spring-time challenge, and feels more like a frustrating and annoying test of precision timing. Some levels rely on twenty restarts and one massive stroke of luck to get past them. But, there's nothing wrong with a puzzle game that's challenging. And French developers Eko Software have put together a solid, and undeniably challenging game. While its simple presentation lends itself more towards phones than 50 inch flat-screens, it's a clever little game that puzzlers will love and gamers everywhere might find something to like. And it might even get passed uncut in Australia.