After the recently reviewed Storm Angel, we're in more heavy weather this week with Storming Thunder, another addition to the Shoot-em-up genre, this time with the added bonus of allowing up to THREE players to play at the same time, two as space ships, and the third as a small probe capable of shielding players one and two.
The general concept behind the game is very familiar - take your space ship and destroy the attacking enemies. The action takes place in classic horizontal fashion with your ship flying from left to right in a total of five locations.
You are offered a choice of two ships to help in the battle, each with differing weapons. Each ship comes equipped with a decent shield, allowing you to take several hits before losing a life. Your shield can be recharged and weapons upgraded in-game by way of collecting handy pickups. You can even adjust your ships thrust!
In single-player mode, Storming Thunder plays well, with everything you'd expect from the genre. Enemies are diverse, levels are interesting and varied and difficulty has been gauged well with the game starting you off gently before letting the really tough enemies loose. The choice of weapons is limited to a variety of directional shots, with a charge-up beam for those really big enemies.
Increase the player count and the game mechanics change considerably. Its nice to see a proper two-player mode included where both players can control ships at the same time. Though the game became easier, the fun in stealing each others pickups and the kudos for making a kill cannot be underestimated.
Add a third person however and things take a sharp decline. If you can find a third-player to join in, they get to assume the role of a probe, able to float around the screen (using the mouse) absorbing bullets to protect the other players, and firing shots. The idea seems like a good one, but in practise the probe is too difficult to control, and my third player didn't enjoy himself much.
Graphics are bright and large, but I couldn't help thinking they seemed a little low-res. Everything from the menus, to the in-game HUD, to the game sprites has an anime feel to it, which is definitely welcomed. Sound and music are average though, neither was bad, but not inspiring enough to whistle the theme tune.
My main criticism with Storming Thunder is with the controls. A shoot-em-up demands that the player be able to move around and change weapons without risk of accidentally steering the ship into an asteroid, but changing either your weapon config or ships thrust is troublesome and often leads to death. The option to assign changes to specific keys would have been nice.
As a huge fan of the genre I'm always on the lookout for the next big thing, but sadly this isn't it. Storming Thunder has to be commended for the two player mode and applauded for attempting a three player mode but the single player aspects don't do enough to raise this above average.
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