Game Reviews

Tornado Mania

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| Tornado Mania
Tornado Mania
| Tornado Mania

Tornadoes can't be all bad: one tried to level Birmingham last year, after all. But us humans persist in seeing twisty wind as A Terrible Thing, probably on account of all that pesky death and destruction stuff that often comes in its wake.

On the plus side, tornadoes make cows fly, which is worth celebrating. And Digital Chocolate is also doing its bit to give them a positive spin (ho ho) with Tornado Mania, in which you actually control twisters for constructive purposes. Well, mostly.

If we had to describe Tornado Mania in a sentence: it's a straight blend of urban-planning classic Sim City with quirky console roll-'em-up Katamari Damacy. Except with tornadoes picking things up, instead of a big rolly ball, obviously. And with elements of DChoc's own Tower Bloxx thrown in.

If we had to describe it in a word? 'Ace'. But we'll get to the plaudits later.

Tornado Mania puts you in the pay of a mad scientist, who wants to build the ultimate city by, erm, sending out tornadoes to collect buildings and bring them back to be placed in a suitably idyllic layout.

Your job, in the game's core Utopia Mode, is to control those tornadoes, whisking residential, commercial, cultural and industrial buildings up safely without damaging them, and then deciding how to place them in your new city for maximum citizen happiness.

The controls are beautifully simple. Left to its own devices, a tornado spins in a clockwise direction. Hold down the '5' key, and it switches to anti-clockwise. Varying the timing and length of your presses enables you to steer the tornado wherever you want.

You get bigger by picking up random objects / scenery / animals, and once you reach the right size, can then pick up buildings by rotating around them until a green gauge is full. Destroy too many buildings though, and helicopters arrive to downsize you.

Structurally, the game works like Tower Bloxx: you decide what kind of building you're after, which triggers the action segments where you pick up two, three, or more of that building within a time limit, before heading home to deposit them.

As you progress and your city gets bigger, you unlock new building types to go and find in the different categories. For instance, Residential includes cabins, suburban houses, luxury estates and high-rises, Commercial includes cow houses, boutiques, restaurants and shopping malls, Cultural includes schools, leisure centres and opera houses, and Industrial includes, well, power plants basically.

The more you unlock, the more strategy there is in the city-building part of the game, in making sure everything fits together without having so much overcrowding that your citizens aren't happy. It truly does get more engrossing as you go along.

And it's great, it really is. Our only real quibble is that we're still a little hazy about the exact rules for placing buildings for the maximum benefit – it could be explained better at the start of the game. Still, it does mean you'll have to evolve a strategy as you go along.

Top stuff, and there's more, too – there's the Rampage Mode, which has been designed for anyone who read everything we've written above thinking it sounded a bit... constructive. Because in Rampage Mode, all you do is tear stuff up.

Flatten buildings one after the other to build up combo scores, and grab power-ups for speed boosts, extra tornadoes and shields to protect yourself from the 'copters. Destroy everything you see. It's almost a different game, and is equally absorbing.

Tornado Mania is a marvellous piece of work. It feels like it has more long-term depth than even Tower Bloxx thanks to the beefed-up city building mode, even if the idea of rotating tornadoes around buildings isn't quite as instantly-graspable as dropping tower blocks onto one another.

It's one of the best mobile games we've ever played. With this entirely original title, Digital Chocolate have brewed up A Mighty Wind indeed.

Tornado Mania

One of the games of the year, and an ace introduction to the joys of mobile gaming