On paper, the concepts presented by Cloudbuilt make it out to be a game that would be right up my alley. It boasts a killer art style, rocks a fantastic soundtrack, and promises fast-paced arcadey style action platforming that plays like a mix of Mirror’s Edge and Mega Man. Leading up to it’s release, it was high up on my radar of “games I wanted quite badly”, but the final product didn’t turn out to be quite what I was expecting.
Don’t let the ominous lead-in paragraph fool you; the game isn’t bad. Clearly a lot of love went into the finished product, and for those who are looking for the kind of thing it’s selling, I would consider it worth the asking price. A few caveats need to be mentioned, though based on the mostly positive reactions the game has been getting, it may be more user error than anything.
At the very foundation of the game lies an ultra-fast wall-running action platformer. The game is quick, and it belongs in the genre of games that forces you to rely on reaction times and your ability to adjust quickly.
The story of the game takes place in a dreamscape-esque area, meaning the platforming levels to consist largely of floating platforms and pathways, allowing the game to throw realism out the door in favor of pure, distilled level design. No worlds have to be built around realistic cities and landmasses; instead, the game world exists for your platforming pleasure.
In fact, the level design is one of the best things about Cloudbuilt. The parkour playgrounds presented are immense fun to explore, and quite literally blast through. The protagonists’ rocket packs propel her forward in a sometimes-hard-to-follow burst of speed, creating the momentum that’s meant to carry the player forward through the wall-running gauntlet. And while the player is barreling through with reckless abandon, Cloudbuilt throws obstacles and enemies in the way, so constant attention and consideration is mandatory.
You have the ability to shoot, as well as hold down the fire button for a charged up shot. That’s pretty much the extent of your offensive capabilities, meaning worrying about attacking doesn’t get in the way of the main focus of the freerunning and parkour. The opposing force mostly consists of mobile enemies and stationary turrets, both of which tend to block your path or fire at you to slow you down or produce more obstacles to navigate around. These antagonists are more annoying than anything, obstructions to the goal you’re trying to race toward, and nothing more.
The game gives you a health bar, and while it’s important to stay conscious of that for the sake of not dying, the majority of my deaths were from bad jumps and poor planning. Certain platforming obstacles that exist to ruin your parkour fun can chip away at your health, too. The other meter to keep track of is the boost gauge at the bottom of the screen. While running up or along the side of a wall, pressing the space bar boosts the player forward, keeping the character glued to the surface they’re running on. The boost has a limited amount of time, though many surfaces have refills along the path to keep you going.
This boost/wall run mechanic is the core of the game. Staying mobile and always pushing forward, while managing boost amounts and platforming efficiently, are the main focuses of the title.
One of my favorite parts of the game are the branching paths. Though the levels are designed specifically around player expectations and usher you along a designated path, there are so many routes that lead to the goal that it becomes more about exploration than the levels suggest from the surface. The game is basically built for speed runners, with tons of options for perfecting a level, and for those without the dedication these options are sometimes much easier to run through when simply trying to complete a level.
Graphics and sound are both incredibly solid. Cloudbuilt is insanely stylish, using a cartoony visual flair that is better shown than described. The soundtrack is pumping and intense, complimenting the action game feel perfectly. In motion the game flows wonderfully, and the construction is superb.
This all sounds great, right? Well, it’s time for the bad news. My main issue with the game came from the controls. At the time of publishing, Cloudbuilt only supports Keyboard and Mouse controls. This also feels fairly intentional, since the quick turns and precision jumps seem to make the mouse a natural choice for view control, but keyboard buttons for movement is less than ideal. I found myself getting incredibly frustrated even after hours of play. I thought this would be an issue that would be resolved with more practice and perseverance, but it’s an issue that never went away.
The controls and button inputs just never quite matched up with what I wanted to do. Unintuitive, I suppose would be the right word to use. I found myself unable to play for long stretches of time, since after a while the amount of deaths I dealt with while wrangling with the controls ended up getting to me.
Like what I said before, though, this could be user error. I’ve browsed around to see what other people think, and while there are some echos of agreement, this could largely be an issue on my part, and it could turn out to be a non-issue for many people.
Still, it largely undermined the fun I was having with a game, a problem I couldn’t overlook for the sake of review.
For those dedicated to getting the fasted time possible, and who love the thrill of rushing through an obstacle course, Cloudbuilt has a lot going for it. While I found the story to be largely forgettable, the style and the build quality more than made up for it. Maybe someday I’ll get used to the controls and the game will “click” for me, but as it stands I frequently alternate between feeling fun and frustration. For what the game is trying to do, the lack of controller support makes sense, but it’s also largely disappointing. If you can wrestle down the controls, the rest of the experience is one worth having.