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Tornado

Score: 74%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment USA
Developer: Skonec Entertainment
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Action/ Puzzle/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

Original ideas are not found nearly as much as we'd like in games. It isn't like this is a modern phenomenon, since there have been standard niches going back 20 years or more that game companies have been happy to fill. As much as this has produced some good titles, the industry really needs innovation. Without it, we'd have no Grand Theft Auto, no Tron, and none of the other cool games that proved to be genre-busters. Tornado isn't exactly busting genres, but it's at least knocking on genre's door... The look of Tornado is not its strongest original quality. Think Sim-City combined with Katamari Damacy... The bird's-eye view on the field of play isn't terrible, but the level of detail is very low, leaving you with blocky buildings, people that aren't much more than stick figures, and not a lot of area to explore. Cut-scenes that tell the game's story are animated in a colorful, exaggerated style similar to some of the popular kids' shows like Samurai Jack or Grossology. Even with only marginal graphics, Tornado manages to create some good humor and excitement. Who wouldn't enjoy playing as a swirling storm, sucking up almost anything from buildings to buses? There are lots of funny sound effects as you suck up animate objects like people and animals, and even sometimes you'll get a honking horn or bleating siren as you pull up a vehicle. If you don't mind the very simple graphics, which most kids won't, Tornado features some compelling ideas.

Gameplay:

Behind a game like Katamari Damacy is a set of really simple ideas supported by intuitive gameplay and solid mechanics. Tornado scores about a 1.5 out of 3 on this scale, in comparison. The rules of Tornado are definitely simple. Playing as one member of a team of Cosmic Cleaners, you are the only force in the universe capable of returning all items missing from Earth after a bad guy calling himself Prince decides to suck everything off the planet. Each of the Cosmic Cleaners - just Toki to start with, plus others you unlock - has a mix of different abilities, all related to the core technique of forming storms that suck up displaced objects and return them to Earth. This forms the basis of Story Mode, as you watch the events leading up to the Cleaners being mistakenly transported off Earth along with... everything. Each level is devoted to a specific city that you'll need to clean up. As you progress in Story Mode there are new goals in each city, mostly rescuing your fellow cleaners to make them playable. Not surprisingly, the other levels depend on you successfully opening up cities for play within Story Mode.

Multiplayer through Versus Mode is fun, albeit just the local wireless. Nintendo Wi-Fi would have made for a nice option here, but isn't available. During a multiplayer competition you can play it straight by battling in the game's regular format, with the goal of transporting more objects than the other guy. You can also play two variations, one like a capture-the-flag game that involves multiple checkpoints throughout the stage you'll have to paint with your color in order to win. The third mode might as well be the first, except you get to transport sushi instead of buildings, cars, and people. Arcade Mode takes you back through levels cleared in Story and expects you to transport 60% of the total objects in each level before it can be considered cleared. Scoring a 60% on some test in school would be dismal, but the bar is set so high in Tornado that you'll scream like a little girl to even get 40% clear. Which, if you're a little girl, is totally cool. The Bonus Mode isn't really a mode as much as a way to view items you've taken out of each level, check out the game's music, and your own personal leaderboard. The leaderboard at a local level is kind of silly, since we really care more about how we stack up against other players. Even if Wi-Fi multiplayer wasn't feasible, why not some connectivity to give Tornado more of a community feeling?


Difficulty:

Making the Tornado in this game is not complicated, but keeping momentum is where you'll struggle. Especially for a left-hander like myself, the controls are awkward, and that's trying to work with the easier control scheme... Tornado does a terrible job of prepping players and scaling the difficulty. One second you're in training, learning to play, and the next minute you have a full-blown mission. There are some obstacles in the game, but the greatest enemy you'll find is the clock. The time to complete a level is ridiculously short, and failure throws you all the way back to the title screen. The level of frustration builds as you try to master the game's control scheme in three and four minute increments. Tornado should have created some type of free-play setting to allow gamers to get a better fix on the power they wield, both its strengths and its weaknesses. Arcade should be this mode, but doesn't offer any type of "endless" mode that would allow you the chance to work out the control scheme. There's some good action to be unearthed here, but not without plenty of bloodshed. Many players will simply give up once they recognize that the problems aren't so much with their ability as with poor design and pacing issues within Tornado.

Game Mechanics:

Mechanics are supposed to be the "big idea" behind Tornado. Using the stylus on the touch-screen, you swirl around in a circle to form a Tornado... Keep swirling and the energy meter fills, helping you maintain form until you meet up with an object you can't transport or anything big enough to make you work. As you maintain the Tornado, you'll see the energy level rise, increasing the power of the Tornado and its ability to transport objects. Level 5 is the biggie, as we all know - this category of storm is capable of transporting big buildings like the Eiffel Tower - but the lower levels have their place. Movement of the storm can be handled by touching or swirling the stylus in the direction you wish to travel. A handy D-pad will also serve as navigation for your growing storm. Using the D-pad was the only was we found to really make progress during the level; the alternate method of swirling the stylus in one direction of another us just too clunky. There are some special abilities you pick up during the game and initiate in different ways. Picking up special objects will often require a gesture, performed with the stylus, to unlock their power. Other times you'll be asked to blow into the mic to cause your Tornado to scoot along quickly. Special abilities, like splitting your tornado or projecting smaller storms, come in handy as you face off against larger and larger enemies.

Tornado feels reminiscent of older games like Jumping Flash that built on a single interesting gameplay device. The problem comes in when execution doesn't match vision... No doubt there were some good ideas behind Tornado; it shows in the storytelling, the imaginative design for the game's look, and the idea variety of multiplayer and single player options. Very uneven difficulty and unrealistic countdown timers change the game from something welcoming to players from different backgrounds that want something different. Different is good in the industry, and games that successfully execute on the big ideas win much praise. Most likely Tornado will die on the retail vine because of its quirky mechanics and unrelenting difficulty. If the game does find an audience, that audience will recognize that Tornado isn't about being the slickest looking package on the street. It's about adventure and exploration with the immediate gratification of spreading what looks like mayhem, when in fact you are actually cleaning up the streets. A quirky title that may be worth a look for very patient children or very bored adults.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Nintendo Wii Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution 2 Sony PlayStation 2 Spider-Man: Web of Shadows

 
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