| Tornado DS

Wouldn't it be great to be able to control the elements? You could hover bright sunshine over your garden when you were having a BBQ, while ensuring it always rained on the parades of your worst enemies.

Quite how much fun you could have with a hurricane is different matter of course. No doubt, those with destructive tendencies would have a ball wiping out small towns in Kansas, but surely, after a while, such wanton ripping it up would become boring.

This is the challenge of Tornado. The storyline is based around a crew of cutesy characters who resemble long lost siblings of Sonic The Hedgehog. Together they form a cleaning crew who have been separated by a black hole (oh yes!) Their mission is to reunite, while finding useful items to repair their powerful cleaning tool - a tornado machine - and save the Earth.

Of course, the plot doesn't really matter and quickly takes a back seat to the main point of the game: destroying stuff.

Your stylus acts as your whirlwind tool of chaos as you draw continuous spirals around your chosen cute character. This turns them into a tornado, which you then guide around the level using your stylus (or D-pad), picking up the objects you encounter as you go. Think of it as Katamari Damacy but without all that rolling around.

To begin with only the smallest objects can be collected but as time goes on what started out as a small wind will escalate into a full-blown Oxfam appeal as sheep, trees, buildings and even the odd genie or two are sucked into the vortex. You'll have to keep your stylus spinning around to ensure your destructive power is as high as possible though.

There are ten stages to complete, each located in a different city. The most common goals you have to fulfil are finding a certain number of items crucial to the storyline or one of the lost crew members who will become a playable character once rescued.

Your main problem is the strict time limit within which you have to complete your mission. Helping you along the way are special moves that enable you clear the map quicker.

For example, one releases three separate tornadoes to cause triple damage. To trigger this, you not only have to pick up one of the cube-shaped special move items, but ensure your tornado reaches a minimum level (most commonly, three or four of the possible five levels of destruction).

There's also the added frustration of enemy tornadoes which make it almost impossible for you to continue your mission in peace and quiet. Hey, no-one said being a swirling mass of wind was a breeze (Terrible joke. You're fired! - Ed).

Still, once you've cleared a level in the Story mode, you'll then be able to play in the more relaxed atmosphere of the Arcade mode. Two player Versus matches are available via adhoc wifi too.

In theory then, the idea of swallowing up the Eiffel Tower or even just watching sheep fly up into the wind should be a cracking one. And with some tweaks, it could have worked.

The manga-style cartoon characters and bright colours are pleasant, but sadly the gameplay is less consistent. It often feels like everything is working against you as you almost break a wrist building up a level five tornado while cursing each enemy thrown at you.

real issue however is the time limit for each level. These mean you have to fail a couple of (or a couple of dozen) times until you've worked out where all the objects you're supposed to pick up are located.

It really doesn't help that hidden characters and objects can only be found by trial and error - it's impossible to tell where they are by looking at the mini-map located on the top DS screen. But the crowning injustice is that with every failed mission, you're sent right back to the main menu. Ouch.

And on a more personal level, the most annoying aspect for me was the control system. You see, the D-pad can be used for movement if you don't fancy multi-tasking with the stylus. It's a useful option if you're right handed. Which I'm not.

So short of holding the DS upside down or crossing my hands over like a lunatic (I tried both while on public transport; not recommended) there was no way I could make use of the function.

Tornado could have been an enjoyable, unpretentious experience but instead disappoints. There are charming aspects to the visuals and a cheesy pop soundtrack matches the crazy quirky feel, but the developer seems to have forgotten the basic fundamentals of a good game, instead making everything overly complex and unnecessarily difficult.


There's a nice idea in the eye of this storm, but Tornado's harsh time limits and general repetition rip up its reputation