Super Cloudbuilt begs you not to slow down. Its levels are expansive and guideless, filled with floating platforms. You’ll wall run, jet boost and Hail Mary leap across the abyss, blowing the last of your rocket fuel for just a few more inches to grab a ledge. When everything is going well, you feel like a well-oiled machine, bouncing between walls and parkouring through its dreamscapes, occasionally playing the soldier with your multi-purpose pistol. It makes you regret having to slow down.
There’s something of Mirror’s Edge to Super Cloudbuilt. It’s much more expansive than its original, with levels that tend to sprawl and invite exploration. After the game’s opening minutes escaping from a wrecked building, levels open up into the open air. There’s no timer, but the thrill of parkouring over empty sky encourages you to kick up the speed and go for broke. One second you’re climbing a pillar on a floating island, the next you’re jet-running between parallel floating walls, the next you’re praying you’ve given it enough juice to stick the landing and not go careening into the blue mist of the protagonist’s imagination.
The concept behind Super Cloudbuilt is that the protagonist, Demi, is actually unconscious in a hospital bed, unsure if she’ll ever recover. The courses are manifestations of her inner mind, a way for her to regain ownership of her life and once more be empowered when all of her living power has been stripped from her. It’s a decent enough framework with some well-done voice acting, but that’s all it is: a framework. You’re not going to be focusing on the story as you play Super Cloudbuilt.
This is a game that lives and dies on its mechanics and the joy of motion. It’s a 3D platformer that requires a decent amount of precision in it’s harder moments. To that end, the controls are decent but only decent. Coming off of a boost, landing a jump can feel like sliding on ice. As you careen toward an edge and jump backward, the floaty physics often send you right to the other edge in a game of slip slidey ping pong. This is made worse by a camera that seems to get confused at the worst possible moments, leaving you unable to see the ledge that you so desperately need to see.
Thankfully, these troubles aren’t that common. For the most part, running around as Demi is a lot of fun. The game is at its best when you’re unleashed to free run and explore, leaping from ledge to ledge with acrobatic panache. Colored chips are hidden throughout each level, unlocking bonuses, like extra respawns, at the end. The game somewhat directs you along the proper path, but you can usually throw it to the wind and see how far you can get before falling to your death.
Respawns are an interesting proposition in Super Cloudbuilt. They stop you like a brick wall, sending you back to the last checkpoint which can sometimes be irritatingly far back. Generously, you can also collect a limited number of deployable checkpoints to drop right before tricky sections. You can’t always see these coming, though, and even if you do, it’s easy to misjudge or simply not have a flag left to place. Bafflingly, you’re also limited on the number of respawns you can attempt, eventually sending you back to the beginning.
There are many games where this makes sense. In Super Cloudbuilt, it doesn’t. The game is at its very best when it achieves the unbroken flow of high-speed platforming. It’s a little bit Sonic the Hedgehog, honestly. In both games, when you’re forced to slow down, things start to fall apart. It’s when you repeat content that you start to notice how one-note most of its challenges are. The first time through, when you’re fresh and figuring it out for the first time, it’s fun. The second, third, and fourth you just want to be past it already. Respawns are brisk but could be faster, checkpoint pickups aren’t frequent enough, and combat often becomes more annoying than fun.
You’re given a single pistol for the entirety of the game. It acts as a single shooter, shotgun, and grenade launcher with the more powerful attacks on a timer. While it can be fun to leap from a wall, blast a turret in mid air, and land into a boost run, it loses its luster on multiple attempts. Forget to drop a checkpoint on the next platforming section and get sent back? What was fun the first time can feel like a chore.
Super Cloudbuilt isn’t a bad game, but it’s only decent. When everything is at its best and you’re in the free flow of upper stratosphere parkour, it can be downright thrilling. The pure fun of those moments is frequent enough to save it. When you’re forced to slow down and repeat sections, or even a whole level, it loses that luster and the cracks start to show. Given the budget price, that’s forgivable, but it’s too bad the game doesn’t focus more on what it does so well instead of everything else games in this genre are “supposed” to have.
- Open air platforming can be fantastic
- Excellent sense of speed
- Unique, compelling zone design
- At times, frustratingly repetitive
- Combat only slows things down