There are moments in a reviewer's life where you put in a game and expect greatness. Metal Gear Solid 4, Mario Galaxy and Diablo are just a few examples of games that you know are already going to be great and entertaining.
On the flip side to that coin you have games that are virtually unknown, which for the most part go unnoticed, and once you play the you are completely shocked/thrilled.
Tornado Outbreak is one of these games.
I've played this before, but I can't remember where
The first thing you'll notice about Tornado Outbreak is that you've played it before. The concept of the game is quite simple; you are a Wind Warrior who uses a tornado form to wreak havoc amongst the world. While that sounds a bit evil, it's quite innocent I assure you. The tornado power isn't simply given to you, rather you have to build it through destroying cities and flinging people, chickens and goats into the air. Much like the leveling in an RPG, you're going to be required to destroy more and more things to build your tornado bigger and bigger. Simple concept, right? Yep, it is a simple concept and this is why the game works out so darn well.
Tornado Outbreak could be described as a new, more coherent form of Katamari from Namcobandai. Unlike Namco's game, TO actually has a solid, less confusing storyline attached to it. You're a Wind Warrior who has been asked to capture and eliminate Fire Flyers. The Fire Flyers reside in objects all over a level. You have to destroy the objects and hold onto the Fire Flyers as long as you can before absorbing them. The reason you absorb them is to help power your L.O.A.D. STARR. The L.O.A.D. STARR is a device that helps keep your destructive path perfectly shaded. If you aren't in the shade then you're a dead tornado. Getting back to the story, Fire Flyers have infested the earth and you have to go eliminate them. On top of this, they've called up totems that are slowly, but surely destroying the planet from the inside out. Once you eliminate the Fire Flyers you can move on to eliminate the totems. Basically, you'll have to destroy cities to find Fire Flyers and stop the rise of totems or the earth will be destroyed.
Getting back to the L.O.A.D. STARR, the power/timer on the device is measured by how many Fire Flyers you can obtain during gameplay. The more Fire Flyers you can capture at one time, the more seconds gets added to the L.O.A.D. STARR. What's great about this game is that it does force you to think beyond simply destroying everything in sight. As you level up your tornado, more and more Fire Flyers appear inside or underneath objects that you're qualified to destroy. By the time you hit level 11 as a tornado you can pretty much take out houses and such, thus allowing you to obtain more Fire Flyers in closer proximity of each other. The closer the FFs are, the bigger chain you can create with them. Why is proximity important? Well, as you collect and hold the Fire Flyers, the longer you hold the beasts the slower and less powerful the tornado gets. Eventually you'll have to let go of them and absorb. So, with that said, you'll have to develop some strategy and balance your time and how you're going to obtain the most FF without having to constantly stop and absorb them. Outside of powering the L.O.A.D. STARR, you have a numerical goal of 50 FFs to capture before you can end the level. You can earn bonus items and trophies for staying behind and capture all 100 Fire Flyers, but it really depends on how much time you have and the distance between them and the L.O.A.D. STARR. If you don't power up the L.O.A.D. STARR in time then you will have to do that particular stage again.
Once you collect enough FFs and you've powered the L.O.A.D. STARR, you'll go through two more levels before you meet the boss stage or totem battle. Before you begin that stage, you'll be asked to create the 'perfect storm' and generate wind by going through (very quickly) a series of weather gates. Once you successfully pass through those you'll move in to fight the totems. During the totem stage, you'll have to maneuver your tornado through the shadow and lights to successfully make it up to the totems. Once there, you'll have multiple totems to destroy (they have heads, each head has a gated mouth, once the gate swings open you punch the mouth until it's destroyed). Honestly, the totem stages, while certainly tricky near the end of the game, aren't that difficult. In fact, the collecting of the Fire Flyers was a helluva lot trickier to plan out than defeating the totems.
Basically, that's the gameplay.
Now, with that said, along the way you will be able to travel back and forth to the areas you defeat to unlock additional secrets. For example, in the main quest you rescue other creatures of the earth who want to help you defeat the FFs and totems. These creatures, such as the rock people, give you new powers to help you out. The rock people set you up with smashing abilities (kind of like the Mario butt smash). In exchange for learning this, they ask you to go hunt down strange piles of rocks throughout different stages in the game. These rocks are their other rock people who are merely asleep. Using the smash option you can wake them up; welcome to one of a few side quests. This alone will provide motivation for you to go back and revisit the sites.
Outside of the main quest, you also have a co-op option that allows two people to play the game. The same rules apply here as they do in the single player game. It's really quite fun with two people.
One part of me believes that this game should feel repetitive and cheap. Katamari does that to me as you roll across many people, things and oddities collecting them. Thanks to the storyline the game seems to have purpose. I guess that is the biggest different between Tornado Outbreak and Katamari the drive to complete the level so that you can save the world. With that said, there still is an tiny voice inside of me that says it's just so damn fun watching a goat launched in mid air or having a British worker get launched off the streets; you'll find joy in destroying.
Shifting gears just slightly, the presentation value of this game is comparable to the best looking Wii game. It has a cartoony feel to it, but it has slight details that make it less hokey. For example, the first stage you're on you get to watching fainting goats fall down in fear of your mightiness. Once down, you get to suck those bad boys up and fling them into the heavens as they are screaming in their cute goat voices. I absolutely love seeing their split second goat expressions turn from subtle fear to pure terror; the game has this type of detail in it. So, it may not look like a lot when you start playing it, but there are some fine details to the game.
As for the environments you are destroying, they are rather limited in size. I guess this is my first real complaint about the game, it doesn't give you a good warning about borders. When you really get on a roll and are collecting a large chain of Fire Flyers (every time you get one, your tornado is propelled forward really fast), there is so much going on onscreen that you don't see a sunlight border and you run smack into it. Once you hit that sunlight it kills the tornado and you lose the FFs. The levels are too restrictive because of this and it is kind of frustrating. In later stages these borders show up in the middle of cities and it will absolutely drive you bonkers.
So at the end of the day is Tornado Outbreak worth the price of admission? For $39.99 this is a steal! Games like this come along once or twice a year and when you're paying $20 less for better entertainment than most $59.99 games, you had better believer you're getting the bang for your buck (no pun intended). Despite the restrictive levels, the perfectionist out there will want to get all the bonuses and all the Fire Flyers in the game. You'll be playing this for at least 10-15 hours (that's including all the goodies). Even after you get everything you could probably leave this game for a week or two and come back and feel like it's the first time again (twss). If I didn't have to type this review I would be playing this game; it's that good.