Overall Score 62%
For some inexplicable reason the Stork has been bombed out of the sky and now millions (well a hundred at least) of eggs need to be delivered somehow to the cradles of expectant parents everywhere. The Gwins (4 penguins that are the heroes of the game) volunteer their services even though they cannot fly like the graceful Stork, and have other disabilities to boot. Apparently, lack of an opposable thumb means that carrying the eggs is not an option and they will mostly need to be kicked along the path towards the cradles. (The poor babies!)
Storked is a platform based puzzler in a similar vein to the old game “The Lost Vikings”. The Gwins need to combine their skills in order to get the egg to the goal on each level. Luckily each Gwin has a specialty. Murray can hurl a good snowball that can manipulate the environment. Milton, the resident geek, can use all kinds of gadgets like pneumatic drills and jet packs. Tony is the muscle and can kick the egg with far greater power than the other penguins, can lift heavy objects and even toss the egg over great distances. Finally, Lily the Leaper can nimbly jump over obstacles and up stairs; something that the other Gwins are not capable of.
The player can freely switch between available penguins using the number keys and all the action is controlled by the arrow keys for movement and the ctrl and left-shift keys for actions. I like the simple control setup. There are no enemies to contend with, the player simply has to move the egg to the cradle in the best time possible. Bonus medals are awarded at the completion of each level for avoiding damage to the egg from long drops, eating bonus fish that are scattered around the place and beating the par time set by the level creator. There are five difficulty settings that cater to all players from a very forgiving kids mode to the mind numbingly frustrating expert mode. Later levels are unlocked by gaining medals in the earlier challenges and the game concepts are introduced systematically to a new player, which is a nice touch. The tutorial levels are quite satisfactory.
I like the limited undo feature that is accessed with the backspace key, but frequently by the time that I had realised that a blunder had been made and the level was unfinishable, I had progressed too far and had to restart the level anew. To add insult to injury, the level needs to reload at this point and although it’s only a few seconds, you’ll need to do this quite a lot and it really bugged me after a while. Another vital tool to the player is activated with the tilde key and allows viewing the entire level, scrolling with the mouse.
The gameplay is not overly addictive, although the game certainly does grow on you the longer you spend with it. Poor performance issues would have lead me to abandon it altogether had I not been reviewing it. On my P4 2.8Ghz machine running WinXP SP2, the game would frequently just grind to a halt after a few minutes play. A hard reboot of my system (that chews up games like Halflife2) was needed twice. I gave up and uninstalled. I finally got the game to run on my Centrino dual core 2.0 Ghz laptop under Vista, but the frame rates varied wildly from very smooth down to about 5~6 frames per second when the action heated up.
Graphics are cute, yet uninspiring. There is a cool feature hidden in the options menus that allow the player to add weather effects like rain and snow or autumn leaves blowing across the landscapes. The option to change the background on a level was also present but didn’t seem to work, despite there being many good background image files installed in the games folder. Basic sound effects complement the game, and lots of original music is provided, though the user is free to have the game play any mp3 file as background music. Title music worked fine, but in-game tunes refused to play in Vista. Curious, I downloaded the demo version on my WinXP machine (since the review copy just would not run) and found that not only did the music work well, the performance issues seemed to be less of a problem. The issue with background selection was still present. Go figure.
A fully functional level editor comes bundled with the game that is fairly easy to use and allows the player to create and share custom built levels. The full version of the game features over 100 levels which is certainly more than enough to keep you going for a week or so, and only hardcore fans will even bother trying out the editor, though it’s a nice feature to include.
I think that there’s a decent game in here somewhere, but the review copy that I played (which may not be exactly the same as the full retail release) left me feeling that there were just too many technical issues with Storked. Hopefully Mike and the team at Graduate Games can get things sorted out and the game will be a success for them. I spent countless hours in front of The Lost Vikings and Storked does have all the elements of that game and more, yet for some reason it is, in its present state, a somewhat unsatisfying experience.
Keywords: storked review, graduate games reviews, graduate games games, storked scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.