Tornado Mania is equal parts destruction and creation. But we won't lie - we prefer the destruction. Honestly, can controlling a tornado ravaging a city really be topped?
Tornado Mania from Digital Chocolate might not seem to have any connection to the company's breakout hit Tower Bloxx at first glance, but in fact the two titles are cut from remarkably similar cloth. Tower Bloxx was a hit because it wasn't just a simple, one-button timing game OR just a simple city-building sim. It was actually both, wrapped up into a surprisingly cohesive package.
This is a fact that clearly didn't escape DChoc, as Tornado Mania was created with a similar genre mash-up in mind. Although I didn't like Mania quite as much as Bloxx (it didn't induce a zen-like state of play like it's cousin), it's still a great example of mobile game design done right.
The premise is that as a super-scientist (whether you're an evil scientist or not is up for debate), you've become fed up with the world and decided to create your own isolated, perfect utopia. The hook is that the buildings that make up this perfect town must first be sucked up from the world at large using your tornado-making device. Yeah.
So the bulk of the game involves cruising around a variety of maps - farm, small town, big city, etc. - controlling the path of the actual tornado itself, as you attempt to suck up buildings that you can later place in your city. Each tornado session is brief - just about 60 seconds. So it becomes a frantic attempt to pick up enough small items like cars and trees to make your small twister big enough to pick up the barns, mansions, tennis courts, or whatever it is you're hoping to earn for your town.
The game's other half focuses on the town-building itself. You'll need to place enough houses to hit population milestones, eventually replacing cabins with homes, homes with mansions, and so-on. But you'll also need to suck-up and place power plants, recreation buildings, and other infrastructure to place around town to keep everyone happy. As your town grows you'll earn more space to work with, and the ability to suck-up bigger and better buildings in tornado mode.
It's an innovative set-up, and for the most part it works really well. Growing your city gives the tornado action a purpose, allowing the gameplay to be stretched much further than it could be otherwise. The two modes compliment each other really well, even if it sounds a bit odd.
My only real complaint is, unfortunately, fairly major. I found controlling the tornado itself (something you'll spend the bulk of the game doing) somewhat confusing and unwieldy, even after hours of play. Your twister moves clockwise in a circular pattern, meaning if you press no buttons, it just travels in a small circle over and over. Holding the center button reverses it's movement, causing it to circle around counter-clockwise. So, to move laterally, you must rhythmically hold and then release the center button. This leads to the twister wiggling it's way across the map.
It's not a bad system per se - it's certainly better than the tornado being controlled directly by the d-pad - that would be just plain boring. It just lacks the intuitiveness of the rhythm-based button presses found in, say, Tower Bloxx, for example. It's frustrating to know where your tornado needs to go, and to know (in theory) what you need to do to get it there, but to be unable to pull it off, even after lots of practice.
It's far from a deal-breaker, however. I really enjoyed Tornado Mania and spent quite a bit more time with it than I needed to strictly to write this review. It's clear that Digital Chocolate put serious consideration into making the title as replayable as possible, despite its relatively simple, one-button mechanic. Little touches like damaged buildings not giving as big a population bonus as undamaged ones ensure you'll return time & time again to suck-up buildings more cleanly, in order to get everything in your town just perfect.
Ultimately, Tornado Mania isn't entirely perfect, but what mobile games are? The game was smartly designed to be satisfying in short 60-second bursts, and over a longterm, city-building career. It will take gamers a long time to tire of destroying countless cities, all in the ironic pursuit of creating their own perfect utopia.
What's Hot: Genuinely innovative. Nice mix of arcade action and thoughtful strategy.
What's Not: Controls are simple, but can be frustrating.