Back in 2014, I bought Cloudbuilt on steam and had a blast. It was a time in my life when I had just discovered the joy of free running in my video games so I was all over that like a rash. It was a great time and now, 3 years later, Super Cloudbuilt is here to wet my appetite again. I won’t hide it, I think this game is great! I already knew that going in. The big question is: does it do enough to warrant the super prefix? Or are you better off sticking with the original…
The story, such as it is, centres around a young soldier called Demi who has been fighting in some nebulous war. Unfortunately for Demi, the same thing happens to her that happens to a lot of soldiers and she is critically wounded and placed in hospital. She seems to be in some kind of force comatose state as her physical and mental wounds are treated. To heal her mind she is given access to this kind of astral projection of herself who can perform extreme feats of speed and agility. Her projected self explores a dream version of the hospital and can access these worlds filled with floating platforms built in the clouds. It’s not a bad framing device, but it doesn’t really go anywhere with its story. After each level you complete Demi will monologue her thoughts for about 20 seconds, then you complete another level for more soliloquies. The game clearly isn’t built with a story focus so it wouldn’t bother me too much, if the writing was so damn self important. She waxes poetic about various philosophical quadrilles, but its all fluff, Cloudbuilt never actually asks asks any real questions.
So if it doesn’t quite deliver in the brains department, how are the looks? Personally I think the graphical style is very striking. Cloudbuilt is a cell shaded game, with an emphasis on heavy shading. The texturing on environments make them look like they’ve been ripped right from an artists sketch book, kind of like the a picture before the pencilling has been erased. The look is appropriate seeing as the world of Cloudbuilt is literally a construct of Demi’s healing mind. One thing I’m not a fan of however is the fact that ever level is just variations on floating debris. Yes, I admit that it fits thematically, its just that I’ve seen floating rock world too many times to be impressed by it any more.
All this being said, I didn’t come for the story nor the art, I came for free running action and Super Cloudbuilt offers that in spades. You perform all the moves you’d expect in a post-Mirrors Edge world. Jumping, wall riding, sliding and a little bit of gun-play mixed in for good measure. The game adds in a layer of complexity to all this by giving you access to super charger with limited fuel. For example, you can start a wall ride to get across the gap, but if you don’t quite have enough momentum to make it, you need to active your boost to propel you upwards. The fuel will recharge when Demi is back on flat land, but in between that you have to make sure that you’re using your meter effectively. Cloudbuilt controls like an absolute dream making all this death defying stunt artistry feel effortless when you get it right. I do wish you could fully remap buttons, but thankfully there are a lot of controller set ups to (hopefully) suit your preference. And it’s a good thing that the control are so fluid, because later levels are hard as nails. It’s a fair challenge to be sure, but the amount of actions you’re expected to make per jump absolutely sky rockets so you’ll feel some serious finger and mental fatigue as the game progresses.
Asides from the main story there challenge modes you can partake in to push yourself just a little bit further. There are a few no brainers here, like the time trails or a pacifist run and a few more unique trails like the pathfinder challenge that tasks you to make it through the whole level expending as little energy as is possible. You unlock the challenge after beating a level and completing them nets you with items that can help you later on. Its a good way to teach skills to the player and also give them a little bit of help when the game really knuckles down and starts to break some thumbs. Unfortunately, there is one little niggle that prevented me from really enjoying them. You see the game has a life system, which in the main game heightens tension because you know you’re starting to run low and you’ll have to play the entire level again if you burn through all your lives. But they kept the life system in the challenges, which make them really frustrating. The game is asking you to really think about what you’re doing and having limited attempts really hampers the feeling of experimentation.
Other than that though you can also participate in ranked mode and try to get he best score in the world. There isn’t a huge amount to say about this other than its there for those competitive masochists who want it. On top of that here is also rush mode which tasks you with playing a set amount of levels in the fastest time possible. It differentiates its self from ranked by following a particular theme like sliding levels or a gauntlet of enemies. Again this is a mode for those who want to push themselves, but then again… this whole game is like that.
Super Cloudbuilt is a game for those who want a hard time and really test their ability. If you’re looking for a breezy stroll in the park, you need not apply. While there are a few things I would have changed, I really couldn’t recommend Cloudbuilt enough, even if you only have a passing interest in free running.