Tornado: The Secret of the Magic Cave

A camping trip gone horribly wrong is the backdrop for Tornado: The Secret of the Magic Cave, the tale of a boy, a girl, some bad weather and a mysterious cave that all adds up to, quite appropriately, a hidden object game gone horribly wrong.

Tornado: The Secret of the Magic Cave looks shaky right from the opening scene. Playing as either Tom or Amy, you’ll take a moment to quietly contemplate how lucky you are to be going camping with your partner. “I can’t believe that I have induced Amy to this trip,” Tom thinks. “I have to grab my stuff quickly before she haven’t changed her mind!” It’s amusingly cringe-worthy, but take my word for it: The amusement wears off in a hurry but the mangled English never stops. It’s not unusual for hidden object games to include one or two grammatical errors or bumpy translations, but Tornado is the first one I’ve ever run into that reverses the ratio.

 The Secret of the Magic Cave

Just as awful, and even more hilarious, are the animations. Tom and Amy are actually quite mobile, moving their arms, legs and head in what I’m assuming is an effort on the part of the developer to give the game more life and perhaps a dash of visual excitement. But it fails miserably. The characters look like their various body parts were drawn on paper, then cut out and stapled together at the primary joints and dangled in front of a fan. They behave like marionettes with a single string tied to the top of their heads. It’s terrible.

And make no mistake, it’s not only the bells and whistles that have gone awry in Tornado. Even the hidden object searches, the most basic component of the game, manage to get it wrong. Many searches are spread across multiple screens, meaning players will have to move back and forth between scenes to track everything down, but the list of required items only appears on the screen where the search began. In other words, you’ll be looking for hidden objects without a list of what objects you actually need to find. If you happen to forget what you’re rooting around for, you’ll have to go back a screen or two to refresh your memory. Or you could just start clicking on everything in sight that looks like it might be a hidden object. Feel free to let ‘er rip; there’s no penalty for excess clicking, so don’t be shy.

Nearly every aspect of the game stumbles in some similar fashion. Several times over the course of Tornado you’ll encounter “unmarked” hidden objects that can only be discovered through the hint function or by random clicking, which will add them to your inventory or your list of things to find. There are puzzles, almost all recycled from other games – jigsaws, rotate the wheels, arrange the gears, connect the wires and so forth – and which tend to be either very simple or incredibly frustrating. Some of the levels look nice enough, but more often than not the visuals are drab and indistinct.

 The Secret of the Magic Cave

Even the slight dialog differences between Tom and Amy will no doubt be a source of unintentional comedy for anyone who bothers to play as both. As they prepare for their journey, Amy gathers Tom’s belongings because he’s busy fixing their trailer and she hopes she’s remembered everything he needs, but if you play as Tom he makes it quite clear that he’s being forced to collect Amy’s things because she’s too busy “preening herself” to take care of it.

Let there be no confusion: This is not a good game. At its best, it makes occasional, half-hearted struggles toward mediocrity, as seen in the graphics in some of the hidden object scenes or the fact that it probably won’t set your computer on fire. But the rest of the time, which is most of the time, it’s an annoying, frustrating and distinctly sub-par experience that wears out its welcome long before the end of the game is in sight. Tornado: The Secret of the Magic Cave is two hours of your life that you’ll never get back. Do yourself a favor and save yourself the time.