Cloudbuilt – What We Think:
Free running has seen some interesting representation in gaming. During the last generation we’ve seen the likes of Mirror’s Edge pioneer the concept’s insertion into our medium and we’ve seen games like Assassin’s Creed merge the sport with more familiar gaming activities such as combat and stealth. Free-running has remained fairly niche in games, however, only popping up as a support mechanic in various third-person action titles. Cloudbuilt changes this, offering an experience where free running takes the center stage.
An engaging and fairly minimalist narrative serves to bind the action of Cloudbuilt together. You take on the role of Demi, a young woman navigating a strange and somewhat unreal environment of platforms suspended in the clouds. Between levels you are returned to a futuristic hospital room where Demi lies unconscious, apparently severely injured after an attack.
Head in the Clouds
These short intermissions are punctuated by Demi’s often philosophical monologue which focuses on trying to figure out what’s happening inside her mind and what the unearthly dream world represents. The dialogue is sometimes a little heavy handed with metaphysical ponderings but it is generally compelling and sets a great tone for the game.
Cloudbuilt’s gameplay takes place on a myriad collection of platforms suspended in the clouds. The game takes things slowly at first, introducing you to the various moves that Demi can perform with her jetpack in order to traverse the dangerous levels. A wide selection of moves is possible ranging from boost jumps to wall running and a long range boost dash. Stringing these abilities together elegantly is at the core of success in Cloudbuilt’s gameplay. Falling or being killed by the various threats dotted about the levels means returning to the previous checkpoint.
Free-Running and Gunning
In addition to your jetpack you are also equipped with an energy weapon that can be charged up through three levels of power by holding down the fire button. While this does come in handy and you’ll often have to clear threats from your path, the weapon itself definitely takes a backseat to the platforming and free running at the center of Cloudbuilt. The game is about swiftly navigating obstacles rather than shooting enemies; a refreshing change from the norm in other genres.
Levels are strewn with dangers of various sorts. Most notably, there is a vast, bottomless drop beneath the platforms at all times. In addition to the ever-present threat of gravity, you also need to watch out for turrets, drones, mines, bombs, electrical fields, heat-seeking rockets and countless other unpleasant obstacles. The superb level design is augmented by this impressive range of murderous creations, making for some very challenging levels.
The levels themselves are set out on an unfolding map of the clouds with stages often branching off into multiple choices, allowing you to change to a different path if you find yourself stumped by a particularly fiddly challenge. Cloudbuilt certainly has the potential to frustrate players, but the option to switch to a different level when things get irritating goes some way to help mitigate this.
An Air of Intrigue
Cloudbuilt is a very attractive game; the visuals manage to be beautiful and mysterious, while still remaining simple enough to make the environment easy to read as you leap from wall to wall – from eerie vanilla skies to dark and foreboding clouds blasting rain down onto crumbling monoliths of rock, Cloudbuilt presents a range of stunning variations on its ruined sky cities.
The paths you can take in the map each lead to levels set in differently toned environments. The music is similarly excellent. A melancholic theme resonates through each of the game’s tracks, used to create a tense and exciting beat in one level while establishing a sad and nostalgic melody in the next.
The Sky’s the Limit
Cloudbuilt features a strong selection of levels, some of which pack a teeth-grinding challenge. A few difficulty options increase the title’s longevity; choices range from disabling your weapon, to making one hit deadly are available to make the levels even more difficult. Cloudbuilt naturally encourages speed runs and you could feasibly spend a long time trying to perfect your playthroughs of each of its levels.
Some players may find the lack of unlockables a hindrance to any sense of progress, but those for whom a high score is enough will find a lot to do here.
Fast-paced gameplay, excellent level design, a lot of obstacle types and a good selection of options change up the action. Unlockable powers or upgrades would help to keep things fresh as you push through the game but for many this won’t be an issue. Cloudbuilt merges free-running, platforming and action into an addictive and enjoyable title that also happens to be a visual treat.
Watch the official trailer for Cloudbuilt: