Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-11-18 Nintendo DS Action/Puzzle E (Everyone) Success / Ignition Entertainment

Ever since I first played Katamari Damacy back in 2004, I've been a big fan of such games that task players with collecting every item in their path to serve some overall purpose. While the games in the Katamari Damacy franchise are arguably the best, others like Tasty Planet have also been able to satisfy my need for frenzied collecting. Tornado from Ignition Entertainment is the newest game in this same vein that takes advantage of the DS's touch screen capabilities.

One day, while cleaning up Earth's pollution, Toki and his friends, the Cosmic Cleaners, are sucked up into a mysterious black hole, along with all manner of objects from Earth (buildings, vehicles, foliage, and even people). After awaking on what they think to be a duplicate of Earth, the Cosmic Cleaners soon learn that they have been the victim of the eccentric Prince who is obsessed with Earth and all of the items on it. After realizing that their new surroundings weren't just duplicates of items from Earth, but were the original items themselves, they go to work with their tornado machines to return every stolen item to its proper location.

These tornado machines allow each character (with six playable characters to choose from) to transform into tornadoes and collect items in their path. Very much like Katamari Damacy, each tornado can only collect items that are smaller than its funnel, meaning that at the beginning of each of the game's 10 levels, you will spend quite a bit of time collecting small trees and animals until your funnel has grown large enough to collect even the tallest of skyscrapers.

Taking control of said tornado is achieved by way of the touch screen. As tornadoes are circular entities that spin, your first concentration is to put your tornado into motion by spinning your stylus around on the touch screen as quickly as possible. As you pick up items, your tornado's strength will weaken, meaning that you must spin your stylus on the touch screen again in order to regain your momentum.

Your tornado's movement can be controlled either by dragging your stylus in the direction you wish to go, or by using the directional pad. However, movement via use of the stylus is often tricky, since you will be spending so much time creating spirals on the touch screen that you won't really move anywhere. That being said, I found movement via the directional pad to be much easier, as you can easily be moving in your desired direction while freeing up your stylus to continue spinning.

No matter which method you choose to employ, each level plays basically the same, with your characters traveling to different locations on this transported Earth such as China, South Korea, Egypt, England, and the United States, among others. While the earliest levels challenge you with finding the missing members of the Cosmic Cleaners that were lost during transit in the black hole, others have you collecting various space ship parts so that you can find a way back to the real Earth. Your final missions then will revolve around defeating Prince himself, who also happens to own a tornado machine, creating a level filled with a difficult battle between your opposing tornadoes.

While each level may take place in a different country, each shares a very bright color pallet and the same angular shapes (as an example, camels in Egypt have square bodies). However, this lack of curves seems to have been deliberate, as the tornadoes themselves are much more curvy and realistic, even though they still contain the same bright color scheme.

All of that being said, it's probably a good thing that each level is so creatively themed, with the appropriate foliage, sound effects and monuments befitting your geographical location (you can pick up Big Ben in England for instance), along with catchy music that will have you humming along shortly after you begin, as you can expect to be retrying each a few times.

The main difficulty in Tornado comes from the fact that each level is timed. Most also coming equipped with a certain "percentage cleared" goal that must be reached in order for you to be able to pick up the level's goal item, or be able to defeat an enemy and so on. Since you are very limited at first as to the size of items that you can pick up, most of each level's time limit will be wasted on small items, causing a great panic when you finally find yourself large enough to pick up buildings yet only 30 seconds remain on the clock.

Furthermore, since controlling your tornado is a two-fold process (one hand must concentrate on spinning, while the other concentrates on movement), if you're anything like me, you'll frequently find yourself covering part of the screen with your stylus hand, blocking your view of various items to be collected. To make matters worse, this frustrating difficulty level and frantic pace frequently caused me to place undo pressure on both the touch screen and the directional pad, literally leaving my left thumb sore from pressing so hard.

After actually passing a level, that geographic location will then be available to play in a more "free mode" type of setting. These levels are all focused on collecting a certain percentage of the materials within a location within a certain time limit. And while collecting items simply for the sake of collecting them (that is, not searching for a particular item) is a nice change of pace, the time limits in each level are still far too short, and more often than not caused my temper to rise.

With an interesting graphical style and the introduction of a new and unique gameplay mechanic, Tornado is one that showed a lot of promise but fell short almost immediately out of the gate. By either removing the time limits from each level, or by giving players an option for how much time they wished to have, Tornado would have instantly placed itself on my list of must play games for the DS. However, as it currently stands, I would only suggest that those with far more patience than I take a chance with this one. For everyone else, it's a pass.

Special thanks to David Bruno and Ignition Entertainment for providing a copy of this title.