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Cloudbuilt (PC) artwork

Cloudbuilt (PC) review

"Cel-shaded, masochistic cloud nine"

Cloudbuilt (PC) image

Cloudbuilt is a game about war.

You might suspect that such a title would begin with a bitter firefight against foreigners while garbled lines of military lingo and static belch from an unseen radio. However, the truth is the battle has already been fought, and the protagonist was not triumphant. Rather than a ridiculous display of glory bolstered by a grandiose score, Cloudbuilt opens to an image of Demi, the game's heroine, lying in bed. As it turns out, she and her platoon were the victims of a bomb blast. Although Demi survived the explosion, much of her body did not. Now, wires and circuitry replace her missing pieces...

Even while bedridden, Demi remains embroiled in war. Cloudbuilt details the her struggle to acclimate herself to her new cybernetic prostheses. Although she is unconscious throughout the campaign, her mind runs through a series of virtual simulations designed to train her to utilize her newly enhanced body.

Cloudbuilt (PC) image

Like Demi, you too will be locked in a war-like struggle, with Cloudbuilt's tricky parkour-inspired mechanics serving as your opponent. Your chances of success may seem slim at first, as you must use a mouse and keyboard setup to dash along walls, rocket up towers, blast across wide chasms, and dismantle myriad robotic foes, all while attempting to maintain momentum. Worse, you'll often have to complete a string of the aforementioned tasks in a manner of seconds, without missing a beat. For instance, you might charge up a wall, leap to an adjacent structure, run horizontally along it whilst felling barrier-emitting enemies, then finish with a rocket-propelled jump to a slightly distant platform. To make matters even trickier, Demi's jetpack contains a finite amount of energy. Thankfully, though, it replenishes while you're resting--something you'll rarely do in Cloudbuilt.

Bear in mind that I didn't describe an uncommon configuration above. Rather, every segment of every stage flows in a similarly dangerous manner, and death is common. However, Cloudbuilt is not so unforgiving as to thrust you into a face-breaking level at the outset. Instead, the game's difficulty rating is quite balanced, starting you off with simple obstacle courses before moving you into more intermediate tracks. The game's early stages are short and easy to figure out, and can be completed without having to move at break-neck speed. This gives you ample time to get used to the control scheme and hone your skills, especially proper camera placement, for the coming challenges. Without learning to aim the reticle just right, you may find taking on some of the latter stages' most punishing sections a trifle difficult. Spiraling up a certain silo, for instance, would be a much more grueling affair without refining such a skill.

Cloudbuilt (PC) image

Learning is essential in Cloudbuilt, as the game does not provide you with obtainable gizmos that simplify the mechanics. Rather, your greatest asset is your ability to adapt to the challenges the game presents. What's refreshing about this is that there is no hard set method for overcoming an impediment. This invites you to experiment with a variety of maneuvers and tricks to see which one works best for you. With so little hand-holding and an emphasis on problem solving, completing a stage feels like an actual accomplishment.

Cloudbuilt's levels eventually become very difficult, and yet at the same time heavenly and exhilarating. They're intricately built, highlighted by multiple pathways and enough challenging delights that a gaming masochist such as myself might feel like a child at a playground. I adored running along a wall whilst navigating a veritable maze of mines, Demi all the while rising and falling with well-timed presses of the Shift key. Although the view was bleak and covered with storm clouds, I found it breathtaking to rush down a ramp and soar through the air, avoiding hovering explosives all the while. However, my favorite sequences involved performing several leaps in a row while taking down adversaries with well-placed shots.

Over time, the game grows so addictive that it becomes nearly impossible to close the application and take a rest. Partly, this is because the game leaves you pining for fresh, thrilling set pieces, which it consistently delivers with each new phase. Also, though, it's because the title is often so tricky that you end up dying a lot, yet you always feel like you can surmount the present set of hurdles if you only try one more time. "One more time," becomes several dozen attempts. "A few more minutes" turns into hours, and before you know it, 10 PM gives way to 4 AM. If you think I'm exaggerating, consider this: not long before I started this review, I decided to initiate one more "hour-long session" that took me five hours to complete.

Cloudbuilt (PC) image

Nothing caps off a fast-paced title like solid animation and a kickin' soundtrack. Thankfully, Cloudbuilt delivers in both departments, although not quite as well in terms of visuals. While the game sports marvelous cel-shaded graphics, the animations could stand improvement at certain points. No, I'm not saying that there's a terribly noticeable amount of lag or that there are consistent framerate drops, but I do notice occasional animation tics in certain levels. Beyond that small qualm, though, the game's animation is impressive, especially when you're able to speed through an entire level without encountering a single instance of slowdown. The soundtrack, on the other hand, consists of a collection of phenomenal electronic cuts, with bits and notes that hearken back to video games scores of yore. Best of all, they're incredibly upbeat, which really adds to the game's intense mood.

Although Cloudbuilt is an excellent experience, I would be remiss not to mention a few teensy flaws, as well. For instance, the stage entitled Stability features a glitchy BGM that occasionally begins skipping. That might not sound like a huge issue, but the level's stuttering track is so obnoxious that it's difficult to focus on the crushing challenges before you. There are also a few instances in which the game cheaply nails you with enemies that you couldn't possibly anticipate. This seems to occur especially in stages that require you to ascend a series of platforms, as unseen robotic bugs tend to dwell on some of them. It's irritating to blast upward, your mind locked the series of actions you must take to overcome the current course, only to have a bug or a cannon you couldn't have known about knock you off a platform and kill you.

These are meager problems in comparison to the entire product, though. Cloudbuilt is a magnificent platformer, highlighted by its engaging obstacle courses and wonderful mechanics. It's an addictive and challenging experience, one that has evoked from me about every dirty word the English language (and a few other languages, for that matter) has to offer. However, its high challenge rating does little to sour the experience, especially when you realize that the game's progressive climb in difficulty teaches you to pull off mind-bending moves you might've thought were outside of your range of ability. If you're itching for a game to give you one hell of an adrenaline rush, look no further than Cloudbuilt.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Freelance review by Joseph Shaffer (March 30, 2014)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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