Sunday, November 2, 2008

Tornado Review

Tornado is a rather unique game for the Nintendo DS that is very much like Katamari Damacy. The main premise is to maneuver your tornado around a town, blowing away, or transporting, various objects, like trees, people, vehicles, and buildings, and when you have transported enough, your tornado grows and can then blow away even bigger structures. So, will Tornado suck you in or blow you away?

The first thing you can do is go through one of those enjoyable tutorials to learn the controls and how Tornado works. You play as a character who can create a tornado by continually drawing a circle on the touch screen to build up the energy. Once your tornado is created, you can move it either by moving your stylus on the touch screen or using the d-pad. When you suck up large objects, you use energy, so you must be mindful and continually circle your tornado with the touch screen to keep your energy built up. For this reason, I like to always circle my tornado, while controlling its direction with the d-pad, although this cramps my hand a bit. Once you have transported enough objects, you will reach a new level, where your tornado can become bigger, so at these levels, it is more important to constantly give yourself more energy, as the larger structures take it away, and if you don’t, your tornado will shrink, which isn’t good.

Top screen features the map, which isn't too helpful. The gray areas are spots you haven't visited yet, while the red ones are completely clean spots. The bottom screen features everything you could want to know, with the time left and % clean. The bottom right shows you the energy meters, where the big one is your main one, and the small clear one is building up to your next level. The bottom left shows the last object you transported.

There are also a variety of items you can use in some levels, most of which give you a special ability to use once, such as creating a giant cyclone to blow away everything in a small radius, or split your tornado into a few smaller tornados to take out other objects, and other, more weapon based items. To use these items, you must first find them on the map, and then simply run over them to pick them up. Most items also require that you be at a certain level, so if you have a level 5 item, but are only at a level 2 tornado, you will have to wait until you gain enough energy. To activate an item, you simply have to swipe a certain direction or tap a few times, although I find that these swipes can sometimes be too sensitive, activating unintentionally.

The game’s story is a bit odd, as some evil prince activates a black hole, which messes up Earth, and it is you and your group’s goal to restore things as they were. Throughout the story, as you find your team mates, you can choose to play as them, for a total of 6 playable characters, each with different stats, pertaining to tornado’s power, speed, and energy. There are 10 stages to play through, each of which are themed around a particular country or area in the world, such as the US, the UK, Antarctica, Iraq, and more. The levels are very well put together and have a lot of unique items to each, such as well-known buildings and characters, which make the levels fun. In each stage, you have a time limit to accomplish a certain goal, which generally has you either finding a group member or collected a certain number of a specific item. The time limit placed on each stage is very limiting, giving you only a few minutes, so you will have to play each stage multiple times to find the best way to both build up your tornado and accomplish your objective. Unfortunately, this isn’t always helpful, as is the case with finding a group member. Currently, I am stuck on Stage 6 because after playing the stage over 30 times, I can’t find Russell…I’ve looked everywhere, but he is placed in a random spot every time and I just can’t seem to find him. (These characters are placed inside a structure, and they are very tiny, so it’s not as simple as just finding a huge character standing around.)(Apparently, for Russell to appear, you must first have a clean-up rating of 50%, which was untold in the game…so yeah, there are hidden objectives.)

The character select screen. Each character has a different colored tornado, which is cool, but they all play the same and I couldn't notice a change in stats.

Once you’ve completed a stage in the Story Mode, you can replay it in the Arcade Mode, but with a different objective. In the Arcade Mode, you simply need to clean up 60% of the area within the time limit, which allows you more freedom to traverse a level at your leisure. Aside from getting a high score, you’ll want to play through each stage many times in order to transport every unique item.

In the Bonus Mode, you can see each item you have transported in each level. You can select a stage to view, and are then given a big list of all the items that you have transported, with “?” appearing on objects you haven’t transported, so it is really cool to see all of the unique structures and parts that each level contains. Bonus Mode also houses the records and Juke Box, where you can listen to some music. You can change the music in-game simply by pressing either the L or R button.

Like I previously mentioned, each stage is very unique and different. All of the stages have little easter egg-like objects to transport, like a wizard in the UK(Harry Potter), Statue of Liberty and the Hollywood sign in the US, and all kinds of cool things. Also, some levels contain special enemies or obstacles that should be avoided. For instance, one stage contains a super hero, who will slow you down considerably unless you strike him a few times with the lightning item, or missiles scattered throughout Iraq’s stage, which will temporarily stun you if you run into them.

Here, you can see that you currently have an item, which is that red box above your tornado. Swipe downwards to activate it.

Overall, Tornado is a unique game, which is good for something a bit new. The game plays almost exactly like Katamari Damacy, except you have a tornado and not a ball. The graphics and style are also very similar to Katamari. The controls are decent and there are a lot of cool objects in each stage, which will have your grinning, but the story mode can be frustrating. Also, the game is too short, with just 10 stages, if you do get lucky with the story mode, you can beat the game in a few hours. Luckily, there is some good replay value with the arcade mode and trying to obtain every item in each stage, as well as playing locally with some friends via VS. Mode.

Overall Score: 6.7/10

Posted in collaboration with GamersPlatform.

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