We're fortunate not to get very severe tornadoes in the UK. Okay, on occasion you hear about some little ones disturbing a few roof tiles, lifting up a trampoline or tipping the odd pensioner over, but we don't get the stories about cows being transported across the countryside to be dumped on someone's driveway. And we don't get crazy people calling themselves storm chasers and making it their life goal to photograph the eye of a storm. For one thing, they'd be quite underworked.
Still, while we might not have ever seen one in the flesh, we appreciate the havoc and destruction they cause and – potential tragedy aside, obviously – can imagine how much fun it would be to have control of one. And this is exactly what Tornado Mania 3D gives you. A violent, powerful tornado all of your own.
Tornado Mania has already been released in 2D (by all means read our review) and this is basically the same game but with 3D visuals. And while the graphics certainly look a lot prettier, they do make it trickier to judge how near your tornado is to a building. If you're trying not to do any damage, for instance, it can be all too easy to bang into the back of a building where you can't see what you're doing.
Control of your tornado is deliberately tricky, which is fitting seeing as they generally aren't the most slow-paced and gentle of things. Left to its own devices, the tornado will move in a clockwise circle and the only control you have over it is pressing the '5' button to make it spin in an anti-clockwise direction. By tapping '5' carefully, it's possible to move the storm to wherever on the map you want it. It's similar to steering a knackered supermarket trolley that always wants to move right – you just need to keep nudging it left to keep it on course.
At the start of each new level, the tornado is at level 1 and therefore small and easier to handle. But by devouring trees and cars, then bigger items and buildings, its size gradually increases. A meter in the top right of the screen keeps track of the level you're at, and the controls get gradually more stubborn as it grows.
Controlling the tornado might not seem important when you're just trying to destroy everything anyway, and in Rampage Mode this is pretty much all you do (while avoiding helicopters which are trying to reduce your size). But the game's main mode, Utopia, is a completely different proposition and your goal is, in fact, not to destroy everything but to carefully pick it up.
To acquire houses, power stations and libraries for your city, for example, you need to suck them up as intact as possible. To to this, you circle a building with your tornado until its foundations have been sufficiently weakened to allow you to lift it up undamaged. This is quite tricky when the controls are deliberately so twitchy.
Once you've collected your buildings, you can then place them in your own utopia, paying attention to your citizens' requests for housing, power and cultural attractions. An onscreen 'happy meter' shows how good a job you're doing and at the end of each in-game year you move up or down an overall ranking.
The whole structure of this mode, and the way new buildings and structures are being unlocked continually, is super addictive. It's a pleasing mixture of strategy and action as you alternate between building your city and collecting the tools needed with your tornado.
So, Tornado Mania 3D remains a novel, well executed concept. Sure, it's simple but easily a lot more fun than chasing after real storms in your car. And it looks the part and has some nice chirpy backing tunes, too. Who'd have thought a big heap of wind could be so enjoyable? (Our old grampy certainly isn't.)