Soon to be on our shelves is Tornado Outbreak, the first serious project out of fledgling developer Loose Cannon. You play a tiny little sprite who runs around sucking in and collecting random comedy junk through themed levels, gaining mass in order to become bigger and more powerful, all the better to move on from small objects onwards to people, cars, trailer parks, houses, et al, in a bid to become sufficiently powerful to meet the mission goals before the timer runs out.
In a nutshell the game is the American answer to Katamari Damacy with a few bells and whistles on. It is made with undeniable competence, but not the humour or deftness that made the aforementioned the legendary fruitcake we know and love. It is really no fault or shortcoming of Tornado Outbreak itself, but the decision to walk in the big, strange, rainbow clown shoes of the Katamari franchise and give it an occidental twist gives varied results.
If you point your Sky or Digibox over at the cartoon channels, chances are youll find Ben 10, Robotboy, Secret Saturdays or another Western made cartoon with very heavy stylistic influences from Japanese anime. If youve never actually heard of any of those shows, go loudly vocalise their inadequacy in a shopping mall the time it takes you to be the victim of underage knife crime will illustrate their popularity. Let's charitably call these American cartoons a 'homage' to anime, and whilst they're usually completely serviceable for your 25 minute visual sugar-rush, there's nothing there for your grown-up viewer, especially if they can handle shows with sub-titles. So it is with Tornado Outbreak, which does not add anything to whatever odd little sub-genre we can put this and Katamari in, nor does it have enough individual panache to carve out its own niche.
It's an insufferable and particularly English trait to insist that everything has to be authentic, Shakespeare in the original Klingon etc., but whilst that goes into remission just for a moment it is worth pointing out that there is really nothing actively wrong with Tornado Outbreak. What at first looked like a budget title soon proves to be presented with solid graphics, each level based around a comedy theme ranging from Merry Olde England to Area 51 and Las Vegas. The physics, sound, and level design are all intelligent and polished, and the field of view and camera angles have only occasional hiccups.
As you consume more bric-a-brac and your character generates a bigger tornado around him, you will be able to rip apart larger structures wherein Fire Sprites hide, who are - for reasons of plot too ludicrous to mention - apparently bad. Cause enough destruction, suck up the requisite number of fiery fiends, and escape to the exit point before the timer runs out. Repeat this process three or four times and you will be rewarded with a boss battle. The boss battles are clumsy, unwelcome, and at odds with the central gameplay mechanic. There are other features bolted on which give the sense of being awkwardly shoe-horned in to add value above and beyond the Katamari clone it is at heart.
The game is in fact at its best in the opening tutorial levels where your only purpose is to gather and grow and wreak splendid havoc on the scenery, before any of the fire sprite collection, bonus objectives or special moves are added to the mix, bogging down the gameplay. With a few less features Tornado Outbreak would have made for a good download title on XBL, but at full price it just does not have enough to make it a more viable choice than the original slice of unselfconscious Japanese roll-em-up lunacy.