Super Cloudbuilt PC Review
Originally unbeknownst to me, Super Cloudbuilt is actually a remastered version of ‘Cloudbuilt’, which was released back in 2014 and is the developer’s, Coilworks, only game. With some help from the port-masters Double Eleven; known for their work on Little Big Planet for the Vita and for porting Limbo, the Pixel Junk series, and more, Super Cloudbuilt has not only been made available on the PS4 and Xbox One but has also been upgraded with regards to its core mechanics, according to the official announcement.
“Super Cloudbuilt combines all previous DLC levels into the base game and features enhanced graphics, UI and optimized gameplay offering more opportunities for players to experience the game with greater depth and variation.”
And whilst I’m not sure how these changes feel compared against the original title, which I had sadly never even heard of, I can say that the controls and mechanics of this new release feel damn good. And I guess it has to, in order to give the player the full control necessary to handle the swift maneuverability needed in order to execute the more complex platforming sections.
Before the end of the first main stage there’s already basic training for the gun, normal and charged shots, on enemies and obstacles, as well as just about all of the free-running tricks needed for the rest of the game. Vertical and horizontal wall-riding with and without boosting, air dashing, dash-jumping, showing off the use of alternate routes, and perhaps most importantly – energy management. Any kind of boost to keep air time or forward velocity requires energy that is only replenished through pickups and by getting Demi’s feet back on the ground, allowing it to recharge. Keeping an eye on this meter whilst moving quickly across large distances is key, especially when the gap is so large it requires multiple energy pickups to be collected en route and obstacles to be shot down mid wall-run (bless the developers for the almost unmissable auto-aim). I’d say this is what has Super Cloudbuilt stand above many other platformers – that pathfinding before or mid-course is also absolutely necessary and requires the player to not only ‘do’ but act reflexively to many situations, truly honing their skills.
Then, on the other hand, the mysterious and sombre story feels fantastic juxtaposed the fast paced action, as the two elements clash yet work together to captivate the player with that ‘moreish’ feeling. Dropped into the role of a soldier in a coma, Demi, we discover her experiencing some kind of astral projection or a deeply realistic dream. Able to move around the hospital, including the room where her physical body lays, the hallways of the building branch off and are littered with entrances to these levels; broken places that defy all logic. In these places Demi discovers her powers and as they become more difficult which, in turn, forces the player to become more adept, Demi too understands she is learning and theorises about where she finds herself. Is it all in her head? Or could it be some kind of advanced military training? The whole story is strange and fragmented, leaving it up to the player to attempt to piece it together through the level names, multiple endings, and short bits of monologue from Demi at the end of each stage.
With five ‘branches’ and each level unlocking more of the hospital, new levels, and endings – the game world can feel inconsistent and dream-like itself, which is the perfect setting to allow us to see through Demi’s eyes. To get the true ending, however, takes some serious effort. As the player discovers the ‘false’ endings, special levels open up for a total of five. Up until this point a levels difficulty is graded from 1 – 10; these new stages are measures in skulls. The two single-skull levels require a massive leap in skill over the normal stages and the the double-skull ones are yet another giant step further than the already daunting challenge – requiring incredible patience, planning, and perfect execution. Then there’s the final stage – three skulls; the ultimate test of everything one has learned as a player. It’s exactly what a final level should be – the perfect trial, requiring all the knowledge, muscle memory, and zen that has been worked on with every jump and every failure. The pinnacle of platforming. They also don’t have checkpoints… well, only the ones you have to collect in the stage or bring yourself.
See, there are single-level use items available that are retrieved by completing stages, collecting all four of the special ‘A, B, C, D’ collectibles in a level, or by beating any of the two challenges in each level. These items can be held onto until needed and I highly recommend that they are mostly kept until the late game where they are seriously useful. There’s everything from sets of lives and self-place checkpoints to mega powerful weapons and temporary energy container increases, that allow some leniency in the more trying platforming parts. Besides these items, there’s also a hidden extra life key on each stage that, once collected, adds an extra life to the counter in every stage. This allows 31 deaths before a game over instead of 30, for example, and by the end I had over 100, I believe, which was also a huge help nearing the end. It rewards the players that go off the beaten path and search for these hidden items handsomely, which is also a nice touch of replayability, not that any more was needed.
Aside from the collectibles in each stage and the ranked and ‘Rush’ modes, that push players to their limit to compete for global leaderboard positions, each stage also has two challenges, as mentioned. These can only be played in a particular order, as decided by the glowing orb that often follows Demi around the hospital, and they come in a variety of styles. From pacifist runs to time-trials and then on to more unique trials such as ‘Pathfinder’; that has that player limit their boost usage as much as possible, or ‘Supercharge’; that is almost the opposite and poses a super-fast time to beat and gifts almost unlimited energy. Interestingly, there are also small sections like this throughout the game – places that drain Demi’s energy, set it to a certain limit, and even allow it to be used infinitely on certain surfaces. It really does constantly train the player without them even knowing, even for the extra challenge modes, simply by having them play through the levels. Wax on, wax off.
All this and I haven’t even been able to fit in how awesome Super Cloudbuilt looks or the absolutely incredible music that goes with it. The game is cell-shaded to the absolute maximum, allowing for a perfect touch of detail that never distracts but still remains visually interesting, whether boosting through the worlds at top speed or stopping to take a look around every once in awhile. Otherwise you could miss it. The music though – wow. I can’t even describe it and that’s not just because it’s jaw-dropping but mainly because it seems to defy all known genres and has a mish-mash of techno, chiptune, drum and bass, classical, and god knows what else. I could go on and on praising it but the final word is the game is great, with a lot of content for those that can’t get enough, and should be played by any platformer lover, whilst the soundtrack needs to be listed to by absolutely everybody with ears.