When I first saw Cloudbuilt, I fell in love with the art style. It was pretty much heaven in my mind, with gorgeous aerial views mixed with sketch-heavy visuals. It helps that the gameplay looks like a solid mixture of parkour and Mega Man style action, which ticks all the right boxes.
But how it looks and how it plays are completely different animals -- thankfully, it plays as good as it looks, and Cloudbuilt has shot up as one of my most anticipated games of the year.
Even in an early, unfinished build of the game (Coilworks has informed me that they're roughly 80% done), Cloudbuilt's visuals are absolutely beautiful. It's hard to describe the feeling of boosting through a giant obstacle course while a picture-esque skyscape is visible all around you, as screenshots hardly do it justice. To be frank, I'm really impressed that an indie studio like Coilworks was able to design such a great looking game -- it looks that good in motion.
Ok, so it looks great, but how does the game play? Well, I'm happy to report that it's really easy to pick up, but fairly difficult to master -- just the way I like it. You'll learn the basics through an interactive tutorial that serves as a story mode of sorts, which gets the easy stuff out of the way -- like jumping, wall running, ledge grabbing, and dropping from edges.
Your job is simple in that all you have to do is get from the start to the finish by any means necessary. You'll see the action from a third-person perspective, and in that sense, it feels like a well developed, sharp 3D platformer. So far, so good.
Once you finish the tutorial and earn your suit though, the real fun starts. Now your character can boost and shoot enemies by way of a beam cannon, both of which add completely new dimensions to the gameplay. Boosting in particular is huge, as it can mean the difference between life and death on a constant basis -- it also serves multiple functions that you'll have to pick up if you want to really succeed at Cloudbuilt.
Firstly, you can double jump, which is a simple enough prospect that allows you to get around the course fairly well. Then you'll start to experiment with boosting more and more, and find out that you can boost vertically to run straight up a wall, much like Alex Mercer in Prototype. You can also boost while standing, which functions as a standard jet pack and a way to horizontally gain some ground.
But the granddaddy mechanic of them all is the ability to boost while wallrunning, which slowly moves your character upwards along the wall. You can let off on the button to descend while running, and tap it intermittently to stay in a straight line. It's an incredibly intense and open ability that really helped make the game for me, given the fact that there's so much skill and nuance involved with it -- especially when the walls are loaded with traps and gaps.
This ties into one of my absolute favorite elements of the game -- the principle of energy management. If you're going for a top time, there are any number of choices you can make in any given situation. For instance, maybe you'll want to simple double jump across a ledge and save your boost, or perhaps you'll opt to boost across multiple gaps and save yourself some time -- which means you may have to wait a few seconds to recharge, and run vertically up a wall.
As I've hinted a bit throughout this preview, Cloudbuilt is tough, in a good way, and it's refreshing to see such a challenging game on the market. The reason that it's not unfair is because the levels have multiple solutions, so you can look to your strengths and complete the stage the way you want to the vast majority of the time. There are also checkpoints, with the ability to "quick retry" from the game's pause menu. After a stage is complete the game breaks down how well you did, offering up multiple stages of difficulty and a full rating system.
Coilworks has assured fans that you don't need to focus entirely on time, and you can have plenty of fun slowly figuring out each level. After struggling through a few stages, I wholeheartedly agree. You don't have to zip through every stage and get a record time to enjoy yourself -- sometimes, the fun is in the journey itself, not the destination. The only hangup I have is that there's no controller support at the moment and I really hope it's a planned feature. Although, you can always map your controls by way of third party software.