It’s rare for me to actively seek out a game on visuals alone, but Cloudbuilt just looked so damn pretty that I had to play it. The only other games that did this to me were Mirror’s Edge and Prince of Persia ‘08. Weirdly enough, Cloudbuilt has a lot in common with Mirror’s Edge. Both are about traversing the environment by utilizing all the skills at hand. If you played or even saw the DLC challenge maps for Mirror’s Edge, that’s a pretty good approximation as to what playing Cloudbuilt is like, just with a jetpack that boosts instead of sliding around. That’s where the similarities end, and where Cloudbuilt starts kicking your ass.
Cloudbuilt is hard. If you don’t like challenging games, don’t even bother with this one. This is a game that starts cranked up to 11 and demands that you adapt or die. And yes, you will die. Cloudbuilt is easily the most challenging game I have ever played. An easy comparison would be Super Meat Boy, but unlike SMB, you don’t get slowly introduced to the various gameplay mechanics before being thrown in headfirst against the more challenging levels. Cloudbuilt starts off hard and only gets more frustrating.
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Released: March 20, 2014
Regardless of the difficulty, which is really how you should decide your purchase, Cloudbuilt is a well constructed, beautiful game. It presents levels that are possible to conquer with the tools at hand, but only if you have the skills. You can try to brute force it from checkpoint to checkpoint, but each level has a set number of lives that if you fail to finish the level in, you have to restart at the beginning. It was ultimately the most frustrating part of the game. When you spend 10 minutes on one 30 second section of the game, failing an arbitrary number of times and have to do everything over again is nothing but aggravating. After having to restart two or three times I would quit every play session I had. I just couldn’t keep failing and have fun.
It’s a shame, too. I enjoyed looking at the art style so much that I kept coming back, even though I would barely make progress. I just wanted to see more environments. Not only is the game a joy to look at, but I really enjoyed the base gameplay. The brilliant approach to visuals doesn’t extend to the story, which is told through audio logs after each level that can only be played in the hospital room that serves as your level select, but not on the level select screen. There could be something interesting there, but it’s presented in such an inconvenient manner that prevents anything from standing out.
Upon hearing the words “Mirror’s Edge” and “game,” I was immediately drawn in hook, line, and sinker. Cloudbuilt, just like the games I heard to describe it, oozes charm and style like so few titles do today. It isn’t an easy game. It kicked my ass and it will kick yours, but it every goal is just within reach. Even then, while I wanted to keep playing on style alone, the difficulty curve kept kicking my ass back to the curb. I love Cloudbuilt for what it is, but it ended up being a game that was too hardcore for my blood. I hope it finds an audience, because it is a well-constructed game that oozes style at every corner, but sometimes a game can be too hard.