I will be the first to admit when I heard the name and saw the boxart for Tornado Outbreak I immediately dismissed it. Then after some research and quite a bit of addictive playtime I discovered that this quirky game can quickly drag you in thanks to its simplicity and charm. Developed by Loose Cannon Studios, comprised of ex-Sucker Punch employees (perhaps you have heard of their other games Sly Cooper and inFamous) this disastrous take on the Katamari Damacy style really is enjoyable. It is also worth noting that regardless of the console you choose the game is nearly identical on all three outside of the traditional resolution difference and Achievements/Trophies. Whichever way you go though, you are bound to find plenty of unique fun with Tornado Outbreak.
If you can believe it, there is a story to digest here. You assume the role of Zephyr, a wind warrior who has been selected to lead his fellow soldiers once the mighty Nimbus retires. Part of his training is what comprises the plot found in Tornado Outbreak. You discover the massive Omegaton has been overthrown by his enemies and they have fled to Earth with force fields that he cannot pass. Your job is to head to Earth and destroy as much as possible to power up a device that will restore his power orbs. Yes it is cheesy and somewhat predictable, but it is also charming and entertaining. The cut scenes are still-frame comic-book style, and the voice acting is actually quite decent.
The premise is simple, and where the game draws most of the comparisons to Namco’s ball-rolling franchise. You start off each level as a tiny wind tunnel that sucks up small items such as plants and chicken feathers. The meter at the top of the screen slowly builds up, and each level gives you more destructive force. This works just like the snowball effect where the more you destroy, the more powerful you become. This quickly becomes addictive as you begin to suck up cars and eventually even houses and other large structures. Invisible walls are presented using a clause in the story mode that doesn’t allow Zephyr or his companions to go into the sunlight. This means each level is roped off with clouds, which dictate where your destruction can occur.
Another quirk in the gameplay are the Fire Flies. These little creatures are what are causing all the havoc and it is your job to collect them and plug them into the device. This is where the diversity sets in as each level is broken down into various sections. From the beginning you simply start out sucking up smaller objects until you get large enough. Once you reach the preset level a timer begins ticking down and you only have so much time to clear the area. The catch is that you can increase your time by collecting Fire Flies and releasing them. This creates a chain that adds precious seconds to your game clock. The catch is that each time you collect them a meter begins ticking down that creates a chain combo. If it runs out you lose your multiplier, but if you manage to keep it going you can rack up to 100 seconds of time.
Each level consists of 100 Fire Flies, but you only need 50 to actually clear it. Also when you start collecting you get a quick burst of speed at the beginning, but gradually slow down as the timer continues to tick down. Balancing this is what will keep you coming back for more and more, if for nothing more than to increase your score and ranking. Levels are themed and very colorful and there is rarely a time you are not in an interesting setting. The gameplay also evolves as you progress giving you more and more ways to wreak havoc. For starters you have the Fire Flies to catch, and then you move on to Stone Stomp, which allows you slam into the ground for added destruction. The game is paced nearly perfectly giving you new abilities just when you have mastered the previous one.
Thankfully the game also takes on the Metroid vibe allowing you to go back to previous levels with your new found powers and discover even more from the earlier levels. There are also boss battles and races to break up the monotony making this much more than a typical budget-priced mess. Everything about the game screams good production values outside of the presentation itself. For instance the boxart is generic, the visuals are simple, but everything underneath is absolutely tuned for perfection, which makes this a surprisingly good romp, if not a short one. The main game can be completed in a little over four hours. Going back to older levels and the option for split screen co-op do help, but the game still feels decidedly short for the $40 price tag.
Visually the game is colorful and very pleasing to look at. The models are unique and the over-the-top cartoon style really suits the mood and atmosphere of the game. As your tornado grows in size the camera can become an issue as you cannot tilt the axis down to see things below you, but the automatic view works most of the time. The music is absolutely epic when compared to the rest of the game and suits every environment like a glove. As I mentioned earlier the voice work is also exceptional once again proving that the development team knows what they are doing, even if it is hidden underneath a generic exterior.
Tornado Outbreak is a fun, unique romp that will intrigue just about any gamer. The quirky story remains entertaining enough to keep you occupied, while the simplistic gameplay will keep you interested throughout its duration. The short campaign is probably my biggest concern, but with the ability to go back through older levels with your new powers is a definite bonus. If you are in the mood for something that tends not to take itself too seriously and still manages to be enjoyable give Tornado Outbreak a shot. I guarantee you will have just as much fun smashing things as I did.