By: David Tavernier
Cloudbuilt is the first offering from indie developer Coilworks. It’s a futuristic game that was specifically developed to emulate parkour, much like in Mirror’s Edge and other games. Does Cloudbuilt succeed in this endeavor? Read on to find out.
The controls in Cloudbuilt are good, but not great. They work well enough, but there are times where you will fall to your death off of a platform or while wall-running, and it feels like the controls are at fault. Sometimes you will be running across a wall and will have to jump to another wall, and instead of continuing along that wall that you jumped to you will simply stay stuck in place and doomed to fall to your death.
Getting hit by enemies can also be annoying as oft times when you get hit you will perform kind of a back flip and often fall to your doom as well. This isn’t to say that the controls are bad. Often they work fine. Still, there are moments where you will feel cheated by the game, and it really isn’t your fault.
Cloudbuilt has a very unique, cel shaded look. The reason it looks different than other cel shaded games that have come before it is because it uses a stylized cross hatching technique that makes every part of the game look like a shaded, moving sketch. Don’t get me wrong, the game’s visuals will not knock your socks off. My gaming PC is about four years old, and it has no problem running Cloudbuilt at all. So the visuals seem kind of dated. However, the game’s frame rate is high enough and its visuals are unique enough that Cloudbuilt‘s graphics are still serviceable.
Cloudbuilt‘s music and sound effects also seem appropriate to the game, fitting well within the bounds of the sci-fi genre. The sounds produced by your jetpack and gun sound realistic enough, and so do those uttered by your robotic enemies. Also, the music never really seems repetitive and serves as a decent backdrop to the action.
One caveat with the game’s sound design is its narrator. Between each round you get to listen to a female narrator (the main character) who gives background information about herself and her trials and tribulations. She seems to be currently injured and in a coma, and the game’s primary gameplay must be taking place in her dreams. The problem with her narration is that it often doesn’t make any sense at all, talking in overly complicated sentences that don’t really go anywhere. So, in Cloudbuilt the voice acting really fails to capture and deliver the game’s story; a failure that made it impossible for me to become immersed in the game.
In a word, Cloudbuilt‘s gameplay is “difficult.” If you’ve played games like Super Meat Boy or Guacamelee! on its highest setting, then you probably know just how tough a game can be. The point of Cloudbuilt is not to defeat rounds and rounds of enemies and bosses, though, as instead you’re forced to navigate more and more complex maps that rely on your ability to do futuristic parkour. If you are up for a challenge, then the game is fun. However, if you are used to breezing through games in 10 hours or less with minimal difficulty Cloudbuilt will be quite a change from what you are used to.
Most maps require you to run along walls, using your boost ability to move up and down them to avoid traps and enemies. You will also have to run up walls and jump from each wall’s top onto other ledges and platforms. There will be instances where you simply have to jump from platform to platform as well, but these are made difficult by the inclusion of enemies walking across each platform or by turrets that shoot at you while you are trying to traverse them.
Many times these enemies and turrets are indestructible, so you can only try to avoid them by moving around them. Another frustrating part of the gameplay is that each level gives you limited continues, and checkpoints are few and far between. This means that even after you spend a good effort getting to the next checkpoint, if you die enough times you will have to restart the level. This makes it feel like all your blood, sweat and tears to get to a checkpoint count for nothing in the end.
This isn’t to say that the game’s gameplay always feels cheesy. When you finally get through all of the obstacles and beat a stage you will get a great rush of adrenaline and satisfaction. The game’s challenging aspects make it so that completing each stage is much more gratifying than in less demanding titles.
A tough-as-nails release, Cloudbuilt offers considerable replay value if you want to achieve a high ranking on each of its stages. So, what it really comes down to is whether or not you are up for a real challenge. If you are, $19.99 is a good price for those that like doing speed runs and want to get the top ranking for each stage. If, instead, you are interested in a good story or simply want to complete the game, then you may want to look elsewhere for a good time.