For generations, visionaries have presented us with concepts of the future. Depending on the visionary's level of optimism, these concepts range from Utopian to apocalyptic—the possibilities are endless. I mean, maybe in your vision of the future, we've achieved world peace; maybe in mine, talking dogs and cats work as garbage collectors. It could happen.
Then again, maybe my vision's been influenced by Tornado, the upcoming DS game from Ignition Entertainment. In Tornado, you join a team of cute and cuddlies in an effort to thwart the villainous plans of a greedy Prince bent on stealing everything on Earth. Well, not everything; just the cool stuff. It's not like he's collecting all the strip malls. Anyway, what the Prince doesn't know is that in addition to all the monuments and artifacts he's swiped with his sinister Black Hole device, he's also collected a group of hairy, garbage-collecting heroes.
Before being snatched and transplanted to the Prince's planet, these canine/feline guys and gals kept Earth clean by sucking up all our trash with powerful tornado machines. Lucky for them, when they were abducted, their machines went along for the ride.
Your goal in Tornado is to use your tornado machines to collect all the Prince's stolen items and transport them back to Earth. You play as Toki, a spunky black tomcat, Gina, a feline beauty, Deva, the cat-brains of the operation, and a handful of other unlockable animal heroes. Each hero has different levels of Power, Speed and Energy, affecting the way they use their tornado machines and allowing you to change up your strategy depending on the map.
Before you can strategize though, you need to learn basic tornado machine usage and a brief tutorial teaches you all you need to know. First, fill your energy gauge by drawing circles on the touch screen with the stylus. Once the tornado's in full spin, use the control pad or tap the touch screen to move it toward some unsuspecting trees or buildings. As you collect objects, you build the strength of your tornado—up to level five—and the stronger the tornado, the bigger the objects you can transport.
The first order of business in Story Mode is for Toki and Gina to find the rest of their team, which along with all of Earth's stolen riches, has been scattered across the Prince's planet. You search for them through a series of alien recreations of the UK, China, Egypt, and Antarctica, using your tornado machine to “clean up” as many Earth objects as you can. The success of your mission depends on finding your friends, reaching a certain clean up percentage, and scavenging enough repair parts to send yourselves back to Earth. Along the way, you'll collect powerups and music items that unlock bonus background music. You'll also have to fight off the well-meaning but misguided attacks of the odd righteous superhero.
Luckily, there are a number of special tornado machine abilities that make both collection and combat easier. These are gained by collecting the powerup cubes sprinkled across the map. Once you collect a cube, activation of your specials is easily done by tapping or slashing the touch screen. “Twins” lets you split your tornado in two for double-quick collection, “Minimi” lets you spawn up to three mini tornadoes and send them in different directions, and “Lightning” lets you zap enemies. For super-fast clean up, blow into the DS mic and tap the touch screen to dash across the map.
The game's graphics are as nifty as its gameplay, bearing some resemblance to the Sly Cooper series. Like Sly, it features a motley-but-cute group of feisty animal heroes as well as a colorful comic book approach to cutscenes. The sound adds to the cuteness and humor with all manner of funny little bleeps and chirps standing in for spoken dialog. Then there's the peppy, unexpectedly horn-driven music—with song titles like “Fly to the Space” and "Coffee Time"—that would be right at home on any TV police drama.
Tornado should be a keeper with its sense of humor, Katamari-like catchiness, and cartoony appeal. Enjoy four turbulent game modes: Story, Arcade, 2-player Versus on DS Wireless and Bonus. Follow the adventures of Toki and friends in Story Mode and unlock maps for Arcade play; revisit the Story maps in any order you like in Arcade Mode; if you're feeling competitive, test your sushi eating skills against a friend in Versus Mode; and if you're wiped out after a particularly intense Versus game, relax in Bonus Mode by reviewing your list of collectable items, checking out your rankings or listening to music.
No matter what mode you choose, storm's a' comin'! If you're afraid of a little wind, you best get down cellar, but if you're up for some gale-force fun, look for Tornado on the DS September 30th.