Super Cloudbuilt is a ground up remaster of Coilworks’ Cloudbuilt which was originally released on PC in 2014, now available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Stepping into the shoes of Demi, a soldier critically injured during the war, the game focuses on high-speed platforming challenges with some cool shooter elements.
Firing up Super Cloudbuilt for the first time introduces you to an incredibly detailed and beautiful scene serving as the backdrop for the main menu. Launching into the story mode gives a brief intro-cinematic that shows glimpses and snapshots of the opening level, allowing you to see just a little more of the gorgeous cel-shaded artwork before letting you lose within it.
In motion the scenery is just as, if not more impressive as you begin tearing through the stage chasing a glowing blue orb and listening to Demi’s inner monologue. If you’ve played A Story About My Uncle you’ll have a good idea of what to expect here, better yet, if you’ve played the original Cloudbuilt you’ll have an even better idea of what to expect. As you work through the first stage the terrain changes from destroyed ruins to some kind of rundown looking facility of some description. Reaching an oddly shiny door ends the first “level” and reveals Demi to be laying in some kind of hospital covered in bandages while the spirit form Demi runs around commenting on things.
The opening “tutorial” level looks very pretty and has a lot of areas to explore, disappointingly for no apparent reason. It is completely necessary however as the default for jump on Xbox One is LB, which is the least intuitive place for jump to live but whatever. It takes some getting used to but once you do it’s actually a pretty good system, although without the jetpack your base mobility is still fairly limited. Learning to combine movement styles for the most efficient and successful path through a series of obstacles is an art form in itself, unsurprising for a parkour-platformer.
Speaking of art, Super Cloudbuilt is unique in more ways than one, quite literally. There’s the option to switch between Normal, Painted, Colour Pencil, Vibrant, Key Colour and Sketch mode. The normal style in itself features a unique hand-drawn feel to everything, enhanced by the cross-hatch shading style, but this is taken a step further when activating Colour Pencil and Sketch modes. Vibrant takes the already bright and colourful palette and cranks it up to 11, whereas Key Colour mutes the background colours and highlights key items and objects, making tracking down the collectibles that little bit easier. Switching between styles requires navigating the options menu but the change is instantaneous so if you get tired of one you can change in-level rather than having to re-load everything again which is a huge bonus.
The story levels are challenging enough in themselves but for those looking for a little extra challenge there are the “challenge modes”. These challenges alter gameplay in a variety of ways from your standard time trial to “Fragile” mode where you can’t take any damage. Most challenging of these has to be the Pathfinder challenges where you have a maximum energy usage for the level. Being unable to save yourself when shortfalling a jump because you didn’t want to waste the energy is pretty damn frustrating, but getting to the end of the level and realising you don’t have enough energy to clear the last section with the energy you have left is even worse as you’re forced to restart the whole level and do it again, more sparingly.
Demi’s story is shrouded in mystery from the start. You know she’s in hospital and being “repaired” pretty much from the get go, but just why and how she came to be there takes some unearthing. The story doesn’t so much focus on the war being fought but the effect it has had on her and the far-reaching effects it’s had on the rest of the world. It’s complex, mysterious and thoroughly worth discovering all there is to know. The information is given in drips and drabs from Demi’s own narration and internal monologue when returning to the hospital ward. Her musings on the world, the war and her condition gradually get more invested as she pieces it all together. It’s the kind of story that leaves you wanting more and to fill in the blanks, giving you snippets of information and insights leave you asking more questions as the story unfolds.
Finally, as with all platformers, the controls. Mobility in the game is obviously the cornerstone of the gameplay and incredibly important as you would expect, however you can only achieve as much as the control scheme lets you. Thankfully the controls are incredibly responsive and allow you to make tweaks and changes with the slightest of movements, the layout is a little odd at first but you quickly become accustomed to configuration. How Demi moves and behaves on the other hand really does take some getting used to, maintaining momentum on surfaces feels a little awkward at first but as the levels progress you’re quickly able to string together sequences with ease. If you’ve played Titanfall 2 then you’ll have some idea of just what I mean, the two movement styles feel very similar in mechanics and behaviour!
Overall Super Cloudbuilt is pretty freaking awesome. It’s got so many different paths to explore to get from A to B, requiring you to string together different combinations of moves to get to the exit. You need to think fast and move faster so that you don’t go plummeting to your doom all too often, we’re only human after all and mistakes happen. The unique collection of art styles I feel is where this game really stands out, it’s not just pretty in one way but 9 different ones at once and you can change between them as often or as little as you like! It’s one helluva charming little platformer which embodies intense movement sequences, a deep and complex story as well as incredibly well detailed art!