Tornado Outbreak Review
Tornado Outbreak box art
System: X360, PS3, Wii Review Rating Legend
Dev: Loose Cannon 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Konami 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Sep. 28, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

When Tornado was announced for Nintendo DS, we were excited at the prospect of chaotic action designed around use of the stylus. Unfortunately, a few poor design choices and an incredibly unforgiving timer system amounted to an experience that was less than stellar. Konami, however, has picked up that mantle of Katamari Damacy-inspired gameplay, bringing Tornado Outbreak to current-gen consoles. Does this reign of destruction present all the right conditions to create the perfect storm, or will gamers walk away with merely a cool breeze?

Tornado Outbreak screenshot

Believe it or not, Tornado Outbreak comes complete with a story, one which puts in you control of Zephyr, the newly appointed leader of an interstellar group of Wind Warriors. You're tasked with retrieving orbs stolen from a fallen hero, and the trail of your enemy leads directly to Earth. You'll have to fight Fire Flyers and harness their power in order to keep your storms raging on.

Though it's commendable that the developers try to give players some impetus for their destruction, the characters and dialogue are a huge mismatch for the gameplay. The cutesy artwork and heavy handed prose try to captivate in a way similar to recent Sonic games, but the story neither peaks with its humor nor its attempts at being serious. Regardless of its limited appeal, the younger audience the presentation seems to be courting will likely be blown away by the game's brutal difficulty.

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Tornado Outbreak is broken up into a variety of themed levels, and both their look and layout are entertaining. Missions follow a set formula throughout the duration of the game, tasking you with clearing out three separate zones to undercover hidden totems that will later make up a boss challenge for each level. Along with a brief sequence that has you racing through checkpoints in order to power up a vortex, the level design is a solid one. Unfortunately, the game never really deviates from one, set pattern, and repetition quickly sets in. Having to repeat levels upward of 10-15 times due to a time limit that arbitrarily makes things difficult only serves to further depreciate the value of the adventure.

Each level zone begins roughly the same: You'll start out as a mere dirt devil, absorbing small objects in order to grow in size. At first you'll need to suck up flowers, mailboxes, and street signs, eventually moving on to bigger items, such as cars, homes, and bridges. Basically, if an object shakes, you're powerful enough to absorb it.

Tornado Outbreak screenshot

In order to keep your twister on the move, you'll have to maintain the power of a machine called the L.O.A.D. Starr. The L.O.A.D. Starr manufactures cloud formations for you, since moving into sunlight will stop you in your tracks. Your enemies - the Fire Flyers - are hiding within various objects throughout a level, and by sucking them up, you give energy to the L.O.A.D. Starr. You can create a chain of energy by collecting additional flyers before a timed meter runs out, and by doing so you'll add precious time to the zone clock.

The controls are straightforward. You move Zephyr with the control stick on the Nunchuk, and you can grab and hold Flyers with the B button. Later on you'll gain additional abilities, such as ground-pounding (A button) and dashing (Z button). The gameplay and level progression, however, don't change greatly from start to finish.

Tornado Outbreak screenshot

Time is never on your side in Tornado Outbreak, so you'll have to learn the lay of the land (which, ultimately, you will do by replaying zones over and over), as well as make use of the Fire Flyers strategically. Though each zone might initially seem impossible to complete, finding the right strategy to finish a zone can be thoroughly rewarding.

The game's difficulty, however, feels a bit unfair, especially in light of the fact that you're not really given the tools you need in order to successfully navigate zones. There's no map system in the game, nor are you given any control over the camera. You'll have to play through zones repeatedly just to familiarize yourself with where objects of varying sizes are located, and when your twister hits levels five and six, the camera takes a behind-the-back view that can be cumbersome.

Screenshots / Images
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