One figure lies bandaged and unconscious on a hospital bed, while another stands over her, pale blue and translucent. The body never moves, but her spirit can still run, leap, and fly through a mental maze to regain her life and memories.
This is the affecting premise of Cloudbuilt, a 3D platformer from Coilworks and Rising Star Games available Thursday on PC. You play as a war veteran whose body is broken but spirit remains nimble. To piece together her past and help her recovery, you guide her spirit through incredibly complex obstacle courses full of massive jumps, laser barriers, and gun turrets.
If you’ve already received a basic education in wall-scrambling parkour through games like Mirror’s Edge (and more recently, Titanfall), you’ll find that Cloubuilt is like an advanced degree. You’re given a limited number of lives, which can increase when you beat an oppressively difficult time limit on each level, and the checkpoints on each map are located very far apart. When you nail that perfect combination of rocket-assisted double jumps, wall runs, and speed boosts, you’ll find yourself standing atop a sprawling structure with a real sense of accomplishment.
Even better, you can mix up your runs by taking alternate routes. Nearly every stretch of obstacles has another way around. One section might have you timing your jumps across platforms buzzing with purple electricity, but if you search closely, you’ll find walls placed over a narrow corridor that you can run along instead.
When playing Cloudbuilt, you’re not just controlling the actions of a character in a dream – the game’s intense challenge forces you into a concentrated state that make you feel like you’re the one who’s dreaming. Soaring over the course and steering to land on a narrow platform can induce vertigo. Missing that platform and falling to your death feels like the sudden start of waking up.
Not only is the game challenging, but if you play it as intended, it’s blisteringly fast. Your character snaps into action with the slightest press of the keyboard, and she nimbly grabs onto ledges before you even know they’re there. You can choose to take your time, but the pulsing soundtrack and time limit urge you to move ahead quickly.
Its rapid movements and fantasy level designs make playing Cloudbuilt a dreamlike experience. Shutting it down and returning to your desktop feels like waking up – you’ll rub your eyes and wonder where the time went while your memory stays fixated on the feeling of climbing and falling.