IGN Review of Elements of Destruction
In late 2006,
Tornado Mania shared with us the simple joy of obliterating humanity with the power of nature. Since then, we've longed to harness the raw power of Mother Nature herself, riding and taming a tornado like a modern day Pecos Bill. Black Lantern Studios seems to share our sentiment, and developed Elements of Destruction for the Nintendo DS. The game is a lot more extensive and includes more weather elements than Tornado Mania, but loses the simplistic charm that won us over.
Elements of Destruction starts off like any video game, television show, movie, or comic book about man-made weather should: with a disgruntled, recently fired, weather man with a vendetta. This particular evil weather man, who looks like a crazy homeless person even before he gets sacked, decides that instead of using his powers of weather manipulation to bring clear skies and benefit humanity, he'll destroy every freaking thing in the vicinity. You know, to make people have a healthy fear of rain.
Through three weeks of increasingly ominous forecasts, the player gets revenge on a society that somehow does not appreciate constant bad weather. The ungrateful swine learn their lesson through a series of stylus controlled weather barrages: tornadoes, lightning storms, blizzards, earthquakes and meteors. Yeah, so okay, earthquakes and meteors are not actually weather, so the game doesn't make sense, but shut up. We forgave the developer for the blunder for two reasons. First, weather men are called meteorologists, and second, we got to rain down fiery fury on farms and schools, which is awesome.
The game is actually fairly lighthearted, and has an ironic sense of humor to it, which helps distract the player from the theme of the game: mass homicide. Since players are controlling a villain, losing screens show happy, sunshine laden suburbs with cheerful music and chirping birds. Actual cutscenes are few and far between, and really do little other than set up new scenarios. While it would have been nice to delve into the inner workings of the game's resident mad scientist, we really don't need motivation to create earthquakes right under football stadiums and power plants. The character's personality comes through in the text on the info screen before each level.
Each level has an objective, usually destroy a certain percentage of the city or specific targets. Players are pretty open, at least in the beginning, to break stuff however they see fit. Each weather elements requires a certain amount of energy. The energy meter builds up over time, and can get boosted by destroying buildings. The moving weather patterns, like storms and tornadoes are controlled by swiping the stylus to change its direction.
As Elements of Destruction progresses, the game opens up more options for players, while simultaneously shoehorning what they can use. Certain buildings negate the effects of different elements, limiting what weather can be used. These buildings become so abundant that the game becomes a boxed in game of incremental destruction, rather than the all out Armageddon it could be. The sometimes unresponsive controls can also make the experience more frustrating than it needs to be.
That isn't to say the later levels lose their fun, because they can be very rewarding. Powerups also scatter the playing field, allowing the storms to be upgraded and extended. Careful playing can unleash a level of destruction normally reserved for the Old Testament. The game gets pretty challenging towards the end, and many levels will require multiple tries before they're passed. Luckily, players can look the level over for as long as they want before the timer starts, allowing them to plan out their attack strategy before unleashing meteorological mayhem.
Unfortunately, even at its ultimate, Elements of Destruction is pretty weak in the graphics and sound, making the experience of leveling a metropolis less exciting. City blocks don't animate as they get destroyed, merely shaking and changing sprite sets. A bit of a graphics and sound boost could help make this game one of the most badass titles around, but would also probably make it lose the E10 rating.
The game is also dying for a score mode. The levels end as soon as the objectives are reached, sometimes leaving quite a bit of game time, and unscathed city, behind. A mode where players could just destroy stuff as they see fit would not only be a great stress reliever, but also allow players to test out the different elements for effectiveness and preference.
©2008-01-10, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved