Tornado Hands-On

We go for a spin--literally--in our hands-on preview of this kooky DS game.

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In the upcoming DS game, Tornado, all of the Earth's people, animals, plants, and buildings have been sucked up into another world by a malevolent prince using a mysterious black hole device. It's your job as one of the Cosmic Cleaners--a group of anthropomorphized animals, such as cats and dogs--to use gigantic tornados to grab everything in sight and transport it back to our home planet.

If Tornado sounds a little bit like the Katamari games, it's because it shares the same wacky sensibilities. The story may be a little less surreal than the adventures of the Prince of All Cosmos, but the same collect-everything-from-buildings-to-buses gameplay vibe is definitely front and centre.

To start and maintain a tornado, you'll have to draw circles on the DS's touch screen. Drawing faster circles will build up your tornado quicker, and you can steer it by pressing a direction on the bottom screen using the stylus. The DS's top screen shows the city you're currently in, complete with houses, buildings, pedestrians, vehicles, and more. Your tornado will start out at level one and will only have enough power to suck up trees or light poles. If you keep sucking up objects, your tornado will go to level two, which will allow you to pick up heavier objects, such as buses. Level three will let you take up houses, and you'll eventually be able to suck up office buildings, towers, cruise ships, plus more. As you increase your tornado levels, new powers will be made available. At level two, for example, blowing into the DS's microphone will cause your tornado to dash quickly in one direction. At level five, you'll be able to create a large twin tornado, which will suck up everything onscreen at once.

In the first level of the single-player campaign, you'll have to zoom around a mini-London trying to find five tornado machine batteries hidden throughout the map. While it's primarily just a simple matter of finding the five batteries and scooping them up within the allocated time limit (in this case, four minutes), you'll also have to make sure your tornado is powerful enough to get access to some of the places where these batteries are located. One battery, for example, is hidden within a sports stadium, and your tornado has to be at level four at least to grab it. The game's off-kilter humour is present right from this opening level, as you'll find yourself sucking up the Queen, Buckingham Palace, horse-drawn carts, and even a young kid riding a broomstick, who looks suspiciously like another famous boy wizard. Later levels will see you wreaking windy havoc in France (complete with the Eiffel Tower), Iraq, Egypt, the US, and more.

Tornado seems like it'll present some hectic fun, particularly with its two-player Versus mode which we've yet to test out. The game is scheduled for release in September 2008.

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