As wicked witches, Midwestern US school children who have to sit through countless disaster drills, and that cow from the movie Twister will tell you, tornados are bad news. And now, DS gamers have a good reason to fear the swirling vortex of mother nature’s Dyson vacuum as well. Tornado had the potential to blow us away, but tedious missions and some really broken design choices instead suck the life out of the whole adventure.
Tornado’s action is basically a knock-off of the “run around collecting stuff” gameplay made beloved by the sticky-ball rolling Katamari Damacy series. But instead of a round ball, players control a tornado. Actually, scratch that. You control a space cat who in turn controls a tornado. You’re rebuilding the Earth’s surface, which has been stolen by an alien. We’re not kidding.
You conjure up your collecting cyclone by making circles on the DS screen with your stylus. Then, while still swirling to keep it nice and windy, you guide your funnel of doom around using the touch screen or D-pad, blowing into the microphone at times to dash (which we hate. Don’t developers know we play these things in public?) As you rip more trees, mailboxes, and pedestrians from gravity’s safe embrace, your tornado gets larger and larger, able to pull up more massive items like houses and bridges and city-specific landmarks. Eventually, you’ll also find power-ups that can give you the ability to split or send out smaller tornados and vacuum up a wider swath for a few moments.
We’re okay with drawing circles to make a tornado, but thanks to cluttered level designs and some wicked level goals, the game is hopelessly frustrating. Let’s just walk you through the very first level, in which you have to find and suck up five batteries hidden around what appears to be London, shall we?
When you begin, you’re so small you can’t suck up much of anything. So your big, strong tornado literally bounces off of almost everything. Even Dorothy’s ramshackle shack would be safe from you. Lame. This makes navigating the narrow city layouts an exercise in frustration.
Clearly you need to level up quickly, so you spend a couple minutes absorbing smaller items until your tornado is big enough to dismantle the larger structure that surrounds the first battery you’ve located. Score! But unfortunately, you’ve just spend two and a half of the level’s four-minute time limit doing that, so now you only have 90 seconds left to find the other four batteries.
You try to make a decent run of it, but get stuck in the water. There’s a river running through town and although you can move from the land into the water anywhere the two touch, you can only climb out of the water and back onto land at the places where there’s a ramp. Keep in mind, you’re driving around a massive tornado.
So you run out of time and fail the mission. Oh well, you’ll just select “replay mission” from the menu that’s sure to pop up, right? Wrong. That’s when the whole cartridge reboots, complete with the opening parade of logos for the companies you are now starting to hate. We’ve never seen a game reboot every time you fail before – probably because it’s idiotic.
Luckily, the second time through, you beat the level – mostly because the batteries are all in the same place, so there’s little challenge to plowing through and finding them even with the narrow streets and your slow-starting, ramp-requiring cyclone. On to mission two, in which you have to… find one of your friends, who is hidden somewhere on the map. Possibly inside a building. Also, you have four minutes before the whole thing reboots again. Have fun!
To be fair, there’s also a sandbox-like, “just suck it all up” mode that unlocks when you’ve beaten each level, as well as a two-player versus mode that finds you racing to suck things up or change the color of crystals (which earned it a bonus point in our score below). But Tornado still just doesn’t have the suction to hold us for long.
Nov 25, 2008