Never has a game made me rub my eyes and tense my hands as much as Super Cloudbuilt. It manages to balance its intense parkour action with awesome graphics, an interesting story, and an overall lengthy experience so let's jump to it.
In Super Cloudbuilt, you play as a pigtailed armour-clad young lady squad member equipped with a jetpack. However, this version of the protagonist is seemingly only in her mind as the real life heroine is actually in a hospital bed imagining her alternative self walking through the hallways of the hospital and opening doors to vertical parkour playgrounds set in the sky. There's a small amount of narration every time you complete a stage that slowly unveils more about the main character and how she's dealing with her bed-ridden situation.
When you approach one of the doors, you'll notice that it's labelled with a number from zero to ten stating its difficulty. That's not to say that the lower levels are easy, however. Pretty much all of the levels in Super Cloudbuilt will have you sweating bullets as you try to maintain momentum and avoid falling to your doom. I found that once I got to levels higher than about difficulty five, some of them became impossible to master. So far, I have completed up to a level eight stage with lots of failing and retrying.
All of the levels in Cloudbuilt are very open and essentially look like stages floating in the sky. A typical level is composed of suspended vertical and horizontal walls with many hazards strewn about that will make traversing them a challenge. In order to jump from wall to wall, you have the choice of using your jetpack which has limited energy. It's best to conserve it if possible, lest you be in the middle of a chain of walls and abruptly fall to your death before you reach the next energy boost.
The jetpack is handled quite uniquely. When you run, you'll naturally gain speed and traverse the landscape faster but tapping on the jetpack button will give you a sudden increase in speed, allowing you to reach new heights when you run off the end of a ramp. It's also used to propel you higher when climbing a wall and in short bursts, it lets you jump a bit further in between floating platforms. Some areas of a level will be traversable quite easily without the use of your jetpack and in other parts, you'll be begging for more energy as you try and retry in order to get to the next safe platform.
Other than jumping between walls, there are many types of hazards to get in your way as you try to reach your destination at the end of the stage: mines cling to walls or fall from the ceiling, lasers move back and forth, and pink lightning crashes around you. Some surfaces will drain your energy completely, forcing you to do some extremely well-timed and precise jumps in order to progress.
Combat also has a role in Super Cloudbuilt. The variety of enemies is quite interesting with some being very unique to the game. They are all robotic in nature and most act as motionless sentries that will gun at you if you get in their line of sight. Some are simple turrets, some throw discs with a wide range, some crawl and release electric shocks, and others chase you in the air relentlessly until you shoot them down or leave their patrolled area. Most of the time, you'll be able to take these guys out if you're careful and look for cover. However, there were a few times when the placement of a machine gun seemed to be in just the wrong place to force me to redo an area over and over until I could take it out efficiently at the exact right moment.
Your gun has a few settings to help with the different types of enemies including a regular shot, a charged shot akin to a shotgun, and another charged shot that releases a grenade. In the later levels, you'll be faced with groups of enemies that keep putting up their barriers so having the shotgun ability at your disposal will help you take them down.
Super Cloudbuilt's graphics and sound are where it shines the most. The default setting is a cel-shaded style with mostly neutral tones but you can actually change it to seven other styles in the menu. Examples of these are: a black and white theme, a style that looks like it was done in pencil crayon, and a simplistic blocky design. I found playing with the simple painted style to be the most attractive and helpful with monitoring the scenery for enemy machines.
It's great how the audio changes depending on the level that you're visiting; ranging from metal tunes in the technology-themed level to soft piano melodies in the more earthy-looking one. It does a great job of setting the tone.
Despite there being a decent amount of lengthy levels to explore, the stage layouts started to get a little repetitive after a while. It's as if level pieces were split up and given to different developers then it all came together at the last moment. It would have been great to see some cohesion to bring the many platforms of a level together to form an abstract theme such as climbing a mountain or a skyscraper. Instead, the beginning of a lot of the levels look the same and you can't tell them apart other than slight differences.
Super Cloudbuilt focuses on collectibles quite a lot and often prompts you to replay levels with certain challenges set such as: pacifist (complete a level without using your gun), fragile (one hit kill), beacon (find all the beacons in a level then return to the beginning), and pathfinder (complete a level with a limited amount of energy). Seeing as I found it extremely rewarding to just finish a level, having these extra challenge types available really extends the replay value. On top of these, there are also a few items to find in every level. That is, if you're crazy enough to go out of your way and risk falling to your death. Finding all of the collectibles will unlock items for you to equip such as extra checkpoints that you manually set as you traverse a level and health upgrades.
I found it strange how these items would reset after every level with you having to go to a dispenser in the hallway to get them again each time you beat a stage. Why isn't this automatic? The same is said for the number of retries that you get. As you beat levels, you'll get more retries at your disposal so when you die, you can respawn at a checkpoint more often rather than just ending the level and starting over. When you exit a level by dying, you have to manually fill up your retries at the dispenser for some odd reason.
After playing Super Cloudbuilt for many hours with my eyes straining to stay focused on the non-stop parkour action, I can say that I don't mind needing to up my glasses prescription. Its awesome graphical style and addictive albeit very difficult gameplay is a blast!
- + Attractive and varied graphical style
- + Addictive non-stop action makes you want to keep coming back for more
- + Lots of replay value and levels to explore
- - Very steep difficulty curve
- - Levels don't differentiate as much as they should from one another