Video games have long been a way to escape reality and that trend continues to this day. They also serve as a means to thrill from the safety of your couch or computer. Some of the most thrilling games are those which capitalize on speeding through stages. Burnout, F-Zero, Sonic the Hedgehog, Wipeout and many others bring a sense of searing quickness that most of us will never have the guts to try in real life. Many of these games are, expectedly, racing-oriented. But what if you could capture that incredible rush in a platformer? Well, you’d probably end up with Cloudbuilt.
Developed by Coilworks, Cloudbuilt is a work in progress that shows undeniable promise. It takes the concept of parkour, also known as free running, and amplifies that tenfold. Every stage sets you up with various pathways, obstacles, and enemies and leaves it up to you to find a way to the exit. The only way to get through is to engage in liberal use of wall-running, boosting (to achieve greater speed or heights) and a decent understanding of the controls.
Unlike most games, Cloudbuilt grants players a tremendous amount of control over the character. This makes failure all the more painful as it’s completely on you when something doesn’t go according to plan. The control scheme is fairly odd, but manageable. After a while, everything starts to feel like second nature. That is, unless you panic, at which point all the keybindings spontaneously disappear from memory.
The flow achieved when playing well makes it worth learning the controls because they make you feel like an absolute maestro. Coilworks must have been very aware of this since they implemented a scoring system to test player skill. Each stage grants players a score depending on how quickly they beat a level. Although there is no punishment for lollygagging on a stage, the game taunts you with a D ranking. With practice, you can get all the way up to C! Actually, there are B and A ranks as well but they are incredibly difficult to achieve at this point in time.
Perhaps part of the trouble with navigating stages is due to my ineptitude with mouse and keyboard controls. Yes, I use them from time to time, but over the years controllers have become my preference! As the beta currently stands, there is no in-built controller functionality. It makes sense because there is a lot of precision expected while playing and controllers will never match up to mice in that respect. Hopefully the developers concede to the demand and work on controller functionality.
Cloudbuilt might still be in beta, but it’s looking complete in many aspects. For one, just take a look at the game. The art style is sublime with a comic or sketchbook style motif. Walls have subtle cross-hatching and coloration and the world itself is strange, but gorgeous. Platforms floating in the sky are the norm and all this weirdness combines to create a very distinctive visual presence. Although they still have work to do with the animations, the style itself is already perfect in my opinion.
According to Coilworks, the game is currently 80% feature complete. It definitely feels that way, and in some respects, feels like it could already be out on Steam as a full release. The fact that it’s not shows that the developer is committed to crafting their product further. Once Cloudbuilt is finally ready for launch, I have a feeling it will be met with a huge response. When a game with frantic, entertaining gameplay also looks this good, how could it not?