Impressions: Tornado Outbreak

Move over, Prince – there’s a brand new Katamari blowing into town. Or at least something like it. We’re not talking about Namco’s clump-collecting classic per se, actually. Just Konami’s new Tornado Outbreak, a fascinating release that offers many of the very same elements that we love about the Katamari franchise, coupled with solid controls and a look and feel that’s uniquely its own.  Don’t be fooled by the game’s otherwise intimidating name, as this was a definitely a nice surprise that meteorologists didn’t see coming.

As an aspiring Wind Warrior, it’s your job to wrangle the wind and harness its power, whipping up destructive and ominous tornados that threaten to demolish anything in their way. Tornado Outbreak is split into several different segments that present numerous opportunities for you to suck up items off the ground and into the raging twister in order to grow bigger and bigger. The bigger your tornado gets (we’re talking way bigger than an F4 here, people!) the more you’re able to commandeer from the earth. Blustering through several locations such as the farm, a dinosaur theme park, and even innocent small towns, you’ll find plenty to pick up to grow stronger and gain more experience.

While the game is nowhere near as polished or wacky as cousin Katamari, it makes up for its shortcomings by being a truly addictive and entertaining title. Virtually identical across all its various console platforms, the gameplay is relatively straightforward and – forgive the pun – a breeze. Don’t run into sunny areas, though, or you’ll find yourself down one tornadic powerhouse. The sun is like kryptonite to a tornado.

Often, time limits will force you to explore areas sprinkled with patches of sunlight and you’ll need to high tail it out of there in order to keep living it up as a gargantuan windstorm. This is an element of challenge that may turn some players off, as part of Katamari’s appeal is the relaxing journey to collect as many items as possible without fear of something (or someone) impeding your progress save for your inability to reach a certain score. Since this title is much more story-based, I felt that it was an appropriate hurdle to overcome in order to not skip through the stages so liberally.

The game employs a delightful cel-shaded look, as well as some epic orchestral selections that look and sound great on all console platforms (though the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 have the visual edge over the Wii version). I must admit I wasn’t expecting such masterful tracks to accompany such a game, instead assuming the game would bring silly, repetitive techno or jingles to appease younger players. I applaud the game for that aspect most certainly, as it’s quite evident that a lot of time went into planning the soundtrack.

Tornado Outbreak can be finished relatively quickly, but such is the nature of the wind; breezing through without a care. And as for tornadoes? I’m sure they have relatively low regard for keeping a steady pace. If you’re into the Katamari Damacy series at all, then make sure this game is on your (Doppler) radar, as it’s a very polished and acceptable alternative if you’ve completed the series or are looking for something a little different to tide you over. Be sure not to pass this one up if you just want some simple fun and a unique take on a genre that’s seldom explored properly.  An enjoyable and highly playable adventure that’s anything but a natural disaster!

Available for Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3.

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