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Tornado Low Level

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Released: 1984

Genre: Shoot-'em-up

Format reviewed: ZX Spectrum

Publisher: Vortex Software

Developer: Costa Panayi

It’s weird to find a game themed around military combat that doesn’t give you any active opposition, but that’s exactly what Tornado Low Level does. You’ll have to beat the clock, watch your fuel gauge and try not to crash, but you’ll never get shot down by an anti-air emplacement. To be fair, the game doesn’t need enemy combatants, as you’ll die easily enough anyway.

Every time you die in Tornado Lew Level, it’s because you tried to be just a little too clever and take one risk too many. You thought that you could make one more target before landing to refuel. You thought you’d initiated that turn soon enough to miss that building. You thought you could climb out of that low-level flight just in time to avoid slamming into that tree. On each and every occasion, you were wrong. You’re defeated by the environment or the fuel gauge, but most of all you’re defeated by yourself.

That’s why Tornado Low Level is so much fun, though. Because you’re the problem, it’s not easy to feel cheated when you die – and as a result, you always feel you can do that bit better. Though it’s not a game that I played as a kid (I did my 8-bit computer gaming on a hand-me-down C64), Tornado Low Level exemplifies the design that will keep me playing retro games for as long as I play games – it’s simple, it’s addictive and it’s challenging, even if nothing does fire at you.