Review | 11/9/2009 at 5:31 PM

Tornado Outbreak Co-Op Review

Tornado Outbreak is a very strange little game.  It's priced as a value title, which can often be a bad sign.  The gameplay is clearly inspired by (you might even say ripped off from) the Katamari series.  Tornado Outbreak appears very kid-friendly, with colorful characters and a simplistic story.  The factors might raise a red flag in your mind, but don't be fooled.  It turns out that destroying things while controlling a sentient gust of wind is actually quite fun, and even more so when played with a friend in co-op mode.

The story, such as it is, revolves around a group of intelligent breezy beings known as the Wind Warriors.  A "hero" from another universe arrives, and asks the Warriors for help in retrieving the standard unimaginably powerful artifacts.  To do this, Zephyr, the main character, is tasked with tearing stuff up in order to find the stolen orbs.  In co-op mode, Zephyr is joined by one of the generic Wind Warrior soldiers.

Beginning as tiny little dust devils, Zephyr and his partner suck up all sorts of objects in an attempt to grow.  You begin the game stuck in a fence with a group of chickens.  At first, you can only blow off the birds' feathers (which is more fun than it should be).  Once you hit a certain threshold, your sucking power increases, and you can whisk the chickens up whole.  When you grow yet again, you finally have enough power to destroy the fence and can roam around freely.  At first, your only goal is to grow large enough to destroy a certain target, but as the game progresses, the requirements to clear the level become more difficult.

As you destroy the many objects in each environment, hidden elemental characters will appear.  These are collected and released to score points and move on to the next level.  You can grab these elementals by holding down the left trigger, and the more you collect at once, the more points you will score.  However, speed decreases drastically as you hold the trigger, so you can't just collect the whole level's worth of elementals at once.  Once the goal has been met, you must find your way back to a beacon before time expires.  I found this timer mechanic to be a tad bit unforgiving, but it does add a bit of challenge to what is otherwise a very easy game.

The co-op mode in these "destroy lots of stuff" levels works pretty well.  If players are close to each other, the screen is shared, but when that distance increases, the screen splits vertically.  Most of the time, this is a good system, though a bit jarring when the perspective switches.  Players have a separate score and elemental collection count, but the goal is shared.  That is, once the sum of both players elemental collection reaches to requisite total, both players progress.  Only one player needs to find the beacon, which is quite helpful.  Beyond the shared goal, there's not much direct interaction between players in these levels.

That's not the case with the racing and boss battles.  Here, the co-op elements of Tornado Outbreak really come out.  Racing levels require Zephyr to fly around at great speed in a sort of slalom course.  In co-op mode, one player controls Zephyr's movement, and the other controls his shields, which must be activated in order to bust through certain obstacles.  If the course is failed, players switch roles on the next try.  The boss battles are similar in execution.  In these, Zephyr must cross moving patches of light and dark, avoiding the lethal sun.  Shields are raised to defend against various projectiles.  Once the "boss", a sort of totem pole, is reached, both players take turns button mashing to defeat it.  The racing and boss sections are short but break up the action quite nicely.

Tornado Outbreak is a surprisingly solid game.  Destroying acres of farms, trailer parks, and cities is very appealing, and there are various humorous bits throughout the whole experience.  My only reservation with the game is that it is fairly short, and somewhat repetitive.  Still, it's a decent way to spend an afternoon, particularly with a younger gamer.  The co-op is solid, if not spectacular.