One of the games Konami announced at this year's E3 was Zephyr: Rise of the Elementals--an interesting take on the traditional Katamari Damacy formula of "eat everything up and get bigger" formula. We had a chance to play a few tutorial levels and one of the earlier stages that were on display in Konami's booth on the show floor. First, it's worth mentioning that the development team behind the game, Loose Cannon Studios, may not be well known, but it's actually made up of former members of Sucker Punch, the development house behind Sly Cooper and the recently released Infamous.
In the initial moments of our hands-on time with Zephyr, we got to experience a few tutorial levels to help ease us into the experience. It's here that we learned that your character doesn't simply turn into a tornado and devour everything in its path. Yes, that's the main crux of the game, but there's an extra layer of depth to it. While destroying and sweeping up various objects in the environment to increase the size of the tornado, we encounter little fire creatures, presumably a version of the titular elementals. If you manage to hold them in the tornado (in the case of the 360 demo, by holding down the right trigger) and chain them as you move from object to object (uncovering more elementals), then your tornado grows bigger and faster and also gets a brief speed boost. But if you don't collect any elementals within a short period of time, the tornado seems to lose a bit of steam, so to speak. This seems to be especially important in some of the levels where you have to fight against the clock to collect items--the little speed boosts would definitely help.
The extra bit of fun comes in when the tornado becomes so large that it can destroy houses, farms, and any other enormous objects in the environment. But this isn't like Katamari where you can just make contact with something and it's automatically devoured based on your size. In fact, for some of the bigger objects, you have to break them down a little (by maintaining contact) before they lose to the almighty power of the tornado. Of course, there are plenty of less formidable objects that fit within the theme of these early farm levels, such as hay bails, tractors, and farm animals--all can help grow your tornado.
Zephyr: Rise of the Elementals presents some new depth to the Katamari formula, not only with the ability to chain-link, but also by introducing different objective types. We're also interested to see what the game is like in two-player cooperative play; two tornados tearing it up sounds like a lot of fun. Zephyr is scheduled for release later this year.