A Knock Off, Not a Knockout
Tornado can be best described as a Katamari wannabe; a game in which you pick up items that gradually increase in size creating a snowball effect as your clump of junk grows with each addition. The main difference is Tornado uses of the stylus, touch-screen, and built-in microphone to move with. It’s essentially the same gameplay with only a few variations on the clump-gathering theme. Even if you really like the Katamari games, you would be wise to observe that this game lacks the charm and fun of the original.
Your enjoyment level of Tornado will depend on your age, skill level, and overall temperament. The story is simple, the characters are too far on the other side of cutesy, and the repetitive nature of the gameplay is sure to make more sophisticated gamers wince. Tornado would have made a great mini-game but it struggles to maintain interest over a number of hours. To fill up time there is an awful lot of padding and make-work scenarios such as collecting, controlling the tornado with the stylus, trial-and-error gameplay, and having to entirely replay failed levels. Players of all ages are likely to find the challenges and the tornado-drawing control system frustrating.
Toki is the Sonic-inspired protagonist of the game. He’s the leader of the Cosmic Cleaners, a gang of cartoon animals that use special tornado machines to clean up and collect a variety of objects and substances. In this story, a mischievous space prince has used a black hole to suck up a variety of items from planet Earth and hurled them around the galaxy. Everything from the kitchen sink to city skylines have been stolen. It’s the job of Toki and his crew to tackle more than 60 levels to find, suck up, and return these items. They will be collected using the power of the tornadoes that you will conjure with skillful twirls of the stylus on the screen.
Story, Arcade, and the two-player Versus mode offer some stylistic gameplay differences that don’t add much new content or alter the gameplay mechanics, but can literally make or break the game for some players. The single-player story mode can be very challenging as I will discuss later. It’s not easy to get on to the next level for a number of reasons but primarily the culprit is the time limit. The Arcade mode doesn’t include such strict challenges. It allows you to play around with the concept of collecting while at the same time increasing your skills, so that you can do your best in the Story mode. Unfortunately, all three modes include the restrictive time limit. There’s a great deal of luck and trial-and-error involved in the Story mode. Challenging another player in the Versus mode may be the most fun some players will get out of this game. You’ll have a limited amount of time to collect as many crystals, vehicles, and buildings as you can.
Tornadoes are powered by continually outlining a circle formation on the screen with the stylus. Drawing circles quicker will result in faster and more powerful tornadoes. They will begin by picking up a few minor items such as food and fence posts and will gradually increase to pick up much larger objects as you progress. The tornado has five stages, each with accompanying abilities to give the gameplay some variety. Blowing into the microphone will give you micro-power bursts in speed, but you’ll have to be at level two to use this feature. At the highest level, the tornado is not only larger but will split in two, enabling it to deal double damage. In fact, the power is so great it’s virtually screen-clearing. But it’s not always easy to get to this last level.
Most of the frustration comes from the trial-and-error of looking for particular items or characters that make up the challenge. In the first few levels, you’ll have to look for various parts for your tornado machine such as batteries to power it. Later you will have to locate members of your Cosmic Cleaners crew. There is no rhyme or reason as to where these items or characters are located, since they are usually hidden inside a building or other such structure which precludes you from spotting them on the map. A time limit of four to five minutes is imposed making it more stressful. But that’s not all. In order to pick up these characters located in buildings, you will have to build your tornado up to at least a level four to pick these structures up.
But wait, there’s more. An annoying character that is regarded as an insane superhero arrives on the scene to threaten your progress. The only way to get rid of him is to stun him with a series of lightning bolts. First you have to be in the fourth level. Then you have to find lightning power-up boxes so you can throw a bolt at him, but you’ll have to locate several power-ups and throw several bolts before you stun him. This misadventure eats precious time from your challenge. It’s really more of a distraction than anything, and it seriously impedes the fun factor. I know it’s designed as an added challenge but it really does get you angry, especially when you have to replay the level over again. That’s when the Arcade mode saves the day.
All you have to do in Arcade mode is grab more than half of the stuff in a particular level within a certain time. It’s a lot less pressure and ultimately more fun. Even though this is a rip-off of Katamari, there’s no denying that it’s a unique and pleasurable gameplay experience. But the biggest annoyance is the control scheme. To keep the tornado running, you have to continue to outline the circle on the bottom of the screen while pressing the D-pad to move it in a particular direction. Then there’s the option of blowing into the microphone to give it a burst of speed. It’s a lesson in synchronized coordination. It would be a lot better if the tornado didn’t have to be sustained with the stylus. It would also be better if the time limits were abolished, or at least we were given the option to employ them or not.
Tornado is cartoonish and colorful. It’s eye-catching and benefits from some catchy pop tunes. The levels are rendered in 3D and display good graphics and animations of a variety of items being sucked up including trees, cars, houses, hotels, giant apes, skyscrapers, the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace, and ultimately entire cities. There is the odd hiccup in the framerate smoothness but nothing too bad.
Overall, Tornado is a good game marred by some intentional annoyances. It’s a wonder why the developer chose to include them in the first place. Rent this one first.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.2 Graphics
Good colorful 3D graphics. Smooth animation with attention to detail. 2.2 Control
Great idea but poor execution. Control system is too repetitive and annoying. 3.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Good music and sound effects. A little too quiet at times. 2.8
Fun lasts about as long as a good mini-game.
2.8 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.