The story of Cloudbuilt is pretty basic, there are some twists but they are seen well in advance. What is different about the story though is how each part of the story is revealed. As you play through the various stages, at the end of each stage you are presented with another part of the story. The story at this point woke make sense to you, the parts are all jumbled around here. But once you have completed all the stages and unlocked all the story parts you can listen to them in order.
Putting all the pieces into the right order shows you the entire story and apart from the lack of surprises presents a great little story that I am sure will delight.
This is where the game shines though, there have been many games over the years that will task you with meeting a set time in order to get the best score, but they have always been of a set type of game. Cloudbuilt is in a genre all of its own, with each of the levels requiring you to jump, wall climb, wall run and even shoot. Making it to the end of the earlier levels is pretty easy, however making to the end of the later levels will put all your skills to the test.
Of course just running through the level as fast as you can is not that you will need to do. As you progress through the stages you will be tasked with more challenging levels, avoiding spikes while running up the wall. Or even attempting to avoid or destroy turrets, homing missiles or spider bots will task you with thinking outside the normal.
As you progress the levels get harder, not only in how many obstacles there are to avoid but also resource management. You don’t have the ability to run up walls at will, your character has a little jetpack to help with movement and with this jetpack there is a fuel meter. Once it goes you can’t do anything other than running and jumping, but it does refil over time. There are points though where you will need to ration your fuel so you can make it across, sometimes there will be refilling orbs that will help but not all the time.
The same is true for your health bar, take to many hits and you die, forcing you to restart the level. The blue orbs will restore your health allowing you to plough onto the end. But should you take a misstep and fall off the side you will restart at the last checkpoint you passed. And this is the single point I had issues with the level design, sometimes the checkpoints are frequent and all over the place. Other times they are so far apart that by the time you do find one you wonder if its worth it. There is no real sense of continuance with that, it is as if each of the stages were made by different groups and the checkpoints where added later by a 3rd party.
The other main issue with the game is the lack of options for the controls, while the keyboard controls are mapped out well and you can change them, a keyboard is not really the best method for a game that requires such precise movement. You can plug in a PC Controller, such as the Xbox one, however there are no changes to the on screen prompts or even the text in the tutorial to say what button does what. The options menu does not even provide any input to say you are using a controller. Its like it was added but forgotten about after then, so if you do want to use a controller then experiment with it and good luck.
This to me is where the game shines, it contains a cel shaded art style that we have seen before, nothing that breaks the mold really, but here with the level design and the character and enemy movements it really clicks.
The player character moves around almost effortlessly and thanks to that the almost twitch based reactions don’t feel jarring. Having that work smoothly shows just what the developers knew that had to be done right. The background artwork suits the style of the game and the main hub room evokes a sense of a future that is in despair but not totally lost.
The sound of the game is a little hit and miss, the audio tracks pump out some heavy noise that seems out of place here. If it was a little more subdued it would click more, but that’s not to say it’s a bad soundtrack it is very good. It just does not click with the tone of the game. The sound effects that are used for the various enemies and even the player character work within the design scope of the game, and the narration that takes place post each stage is fittingly haunted for the bleak world in which the game is set.
Cloudbuilt will confuse most players until they get a fair way in, not only does each stage give you no direction of where to head but they feel almost so disconnected that you question how it was made. But the moment you click and realize what was happening all along the sense of wow is outstanding.