Super Cloudbuilt Review (Xbox One) – Frustration Incarnate
Super Cloudbuilt is a re-release of Cloudbuilt, a high-speed 3D platformer that came out in 2014 on Steam (Windows). It’s essentially the same game with all of the DLC included and three new modes, those being Story, Ranked, and Rush. The main mechanics of the game involve boosting, jumping, wall running, and shooting various targets throughout the games’ many levels. Now, all of these things by themselves are fine enough, but combined, in this case, they make for some of the coolest or most infuriating levels in any platformer ever. At its best, Super Cloudbuilt plays like the Sonic game that we never got (nothing against Generations), and at its worst, it can make a grown man scream like a whiny 6-year-old.
Before I get to that, though, let’s talk about the story, which lacks serious focus. There are multiple branches of levels that you can tackle in the hub world of the game, and you can do them in any order that you want. Each branch starts out easy and gets progressively harder, but retains the same general theme (both in narrative and visuals). Completing certain branches unlocks more branches and narrative points within the hospital ward that is the hub world. Within the hub world, you can see your comatose body after… something happened to it, and you control your conscience around to pick levels. When you enter the level, you’ve got your new augmented body capable of double-jumping, boosting, wall-running, and using a homing pistol. The levels are essentially you coming to terms with having this new body and piecing together what happened to get you to where you are. This would be fine if there was one straight narrative with tiny little branches to other plot points, but it just ain’t that simple.
Every branch seems to be a totally different story, one is about the military using technology to enhance soldiers. One is about what happened between you and your friends leading up to you accident. One is about the main character, Demi’s obsession with Titanfall X Sonic The Hedgehog fan fiction. That last one was a lie, but you get the point, it seems a little scatter-brained. This would be a little bit more easy to swallow if the Demi’s voice actor didn’t sound like a stereotypical 2001 high school girl. Seriously, she phones in her lines so unbelievably hard that I would rather listen to her just projectile vomit between levels, it would be more entertaining. The visuals and soundtrack, however, do a much better job at holding my attention. The visuals are a unique cel-shaded/colored pencil style that lends itself well to a lot of the effects in the game like the booster on your back. Gun shots and smoke from the wreck of turrets look stylized and very cool, and it gives the game a truly unique look beyond simple cel-shading. The soundtrack is great, from atmospheric, somewhat relaxing music to fast-paced electronic music in more intense stages. Now, let’s get onto the meat and potatoes, the gameplay.
As I mentioned before the whole game revolves around wall-running, jumping, and shooting between floating platforms. In the first half of the game, the mechanics are pretty well put-together and easily accessible by pretty much everyone. They’re fun and challenging and can be taken on quickly or slowly for exploration purposes. The second half of the game, when the levels reach above 5/10 difficulty (they’re ranked outside the door to each level), they start getting frustrating. Some of the levels still have reasonably clear ways to beat them (they’re hard as hell, but you know what you have to do just by looking at it).
Other levels… I mean, I beat them by sheer luck, one in particular took me over an hour to beat, and in a game that’s supposed to be fast-paced, that just ain’t fun. Some of the obstacles, I might add, can just fuck right off, such as the little drones that follow you around indefinitely and then explode if/when they touch you. It would be fine if they only followed you around a small area, but they will hound you until you reach the end of the level. Some levels even work against you, by insta-killing you when you set foot on a certain platform, which you can only get off of by having boost. But by the time you land on that platform, you’re all out of boost, and your only option is to drop off the platform, let it explode, and start the section all over again from the bottom.
**Side Note: I would also like to add that this game has a lives system. I was ready to tear this apart, but upon further thought, it actually works okay with this game because there are also checkpoints. Not only that, but you can pick up checkpoints as you go that you can deploy whenever you want, and if you’re under a certain amount of lives, it gives you a few when you deploy it. It’s pretty damn frustrating when you do get a game over, and for some reason, you have to manually refill your lives when you run out (why?)
The main thing that makes obstacles like this un-fun is that they just slow the pace down in an otherwise fast and frenetic game. There’s only a handful of levels that are controller-snapping levels of frustrating, and getting past them feels pretty good… until you throw in the stipulations that are added after beat them for the first time. When you beat a level for the first time, you can go back and play it again with one of a handful of stipulations. Some of them include not being able to fire your weapon, reduced health, always boosting, etc. Each stipulation has been carefully selected for each level too, because they can really screw with you. Certain levels have doors that only open with charged shots from your gun, and if you can’t fire your gun, well, good luck getting around that door. It increases the replayability of the game by a lot, and you don’t have to do it, so the added frustration is all up to you.
I’ll quickly cover the two new modes, Rush Mode and Ranked mode, since they’re simply just new ways to challenge yourself at the pre-existing levels. Rush Mode allows you to play different combinations of levels from the game with a limited number of lives between all of them. One of these challenges is to literally play every level in the game without replenishing your lives.
This mode is death incarnate for people that need to complete every game that they play, because you will likely die trying to complete it. Whether from having a stroke or driving the thumbsticks of your controller through your eyes and into your fucking brain.
Ranked mode is much simpler, there’s leaderboards for every level (and the extra stipulation mode for each), and you can compete to have the best time. Whether you compete with your friends or to be the best in the world, that’s up to you, and trying to set a record might end up teaching you new ways to complete every level!
This game is a well-made platforming challenge for pretty much anyone that tries to tackle it, and the new modes, slight visual enhancements, and upgraded UI make the game a worthwhile buy three years after the original’s release. This is a game that will likely keep you preoccupied for a long time if you try completing it, even more so if you try to S-rank every mission in ranked mode. It’s an “Easy to learn, hard to master” type of game with a unique visual flair, great music, and the occasional aneurism moment thrown in.
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Review Statement: The author of this review was provided an Xbox One code by the publisher for the purposes of this review.