Storm Boy is the timeless story of a boy, his pelican friend, the strong emotional bond they share and their loving relationship. And, yeah, I know how corny this sounds. But let’s put the modern-day cynicism of adulthood aside for a moment, and try to recall the time when we perceived the world with much fresher and more innocent eyes. As any Ozzie kid who grew up during the sixties and seventies know, Storm boy is actually an adaptation of beloved children’s book by an Australian author Colin Thiele which was published in 1964. Storm Boy was already turned into a hit movie during the seventies, and next year we can expect a new cinematic adaptation with Geoffrey Rush, so you’ll know that it’s a subject that still very relevant today.
However, this is the first game based on this book, so let’s see how Ozzie developer Blowfish Studios fared in translating the story material in the video game medium. First of all, despite some objective flaws from the gaming perspective, Storm Boy brilliantly manages to evoke the sentiment and the atmosphere of the Thiele’s book, which is the most important thing after all. The game takes place on the shores of South Australia, where different bird species are nesting and peacefully cohabitating. That’s the place where Storm Boy and his reclusive father spend their days. Although life is obviously hard for them, the close connection with the birds and the natural world makes it a perfect place to grow up. The only thing that spoils the idyl of this avian paradise are frequent poachers and bird hunters. One day Storm Boy finds three abandoned pelican younglings (their mother presumably killed by poachers) and decides to adopt them. Because he and his father couldn’t afford to take care of them, when pelicans grew stronger, Storm Boy was forced to release them into the wild. However, one of them called Mr. Percival returned to the boy, and that, as they say, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Storm Boy isn’t your standard game since even it’s gameplay is extremely reduced in favor of the narrative aspect. In fact, technically speaking Storm Boy is more an interactive storybook than a video game, especially because it’s so exceedingly short with no difficulty to speak of. Virtually, your role as the player consists in walking in the right direction, thus continuously unfolding the events of the story, as if you’re going through the pages of the book itself. For that reason, Storm Boy mostly lacks the interactivity you’d expect from the real game, although the developers had done their best to enliven it with various mini-games such as seashells collecting, swimming, feeding the baby pelicans, drawing in the wet sand or playing fetch with Mr. Percival. Unfortunately, most of them, with the exception of the rescue sequence, seem extremely inconsequential as if they were introduced just as fillers between the crucial moments of the plot.
Nevertheless, I would deem this game as a success, since, in half an hour or less as it’s required to finish it, it manages to create a real emotional impact, which is something that much longer and more ambitious titles often fail to do. Of course, that’s mostly thanks to the quality of the source material itself, but guys from Blowfish Studios also did a terrific job in adapting it to the video game form, especially since the visuals resemble the book illustrations so much. An oh, if you’ve for some reason got the impression that this game will appeal only to the Australian audience or those who had read the book, you’re mistaken. This game, or, rather, the interactive storybook is for all those who were touched by the natural world around us and changed for the better. Luckily it’s done for all relevant gaming platforms, including PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, and Android.