Parkour as a mechanic has become synonymous with the first-person shooter genre as of late. The likes of Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare and the Titanfall series brought the art of wall running to the masses, but rarely does a game outside of the FPS family incorporate free running to the point where it’s the way to get about. Cloudbuilt, originally released on the PC in 2014, is one such example. Now, three years later, developer CoilWorks is bringing its wall-scaling original to the PlayStation 4 along with all updates and DLC in the guise of Super Cloudbuilt.
The main character comes in the form of Demi, a soldier who is bedridden in hospital after picking up some major injuries at war. With all this time to herself, you begin to play as Demi’s subconscious as she dreams of what awaits her in the outside world, with each stage taking the physical form of every struggle she’s currently facing.
This is an emotional and hard-hitting tale that could touch people who have suffered from similar injuries very close to home. You feel for Demi as you traverse each level, learning of her pains and sufferings, as well as listening to internal monologues from her in-between stages. You’ll return to her hospital room upon every little bit of progress, and it’s this that helps reinforce the morbid curiosity of the plot. We know that with every level completion we’ve taken Demi a step closer to healing, but on the physical surface, she’s still an unconscious body stranded in a bed. It poses the question: are you really helping?
While the story of Super Cloudbuilt remains emotional and generally a bit vague throughout, its structure is solid. Over 30 stages provide you with an end goal, and a multitude of ways to get to them. At the most basic level you’re provided with a simple jump and a double jump to traverse the environment, and this is quickly built upon with the introduction of the wall run. Combining these mechanics forms the core of movement, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg.
A boost is quickly introduced to the party, and it’s this that changes the way you play the game. The boost operates on an ever-recharging meter, and it turns your double jump into a feature that allows you to fully scale walls with ease as you reach brand new heights. On top of that, boost completely alters the wall run. After reaching the apex of a run you’ll gradually start to slip back down a wall as your momentum evaporates, but with the boost you can gain that speed back and continue to climb the surface. The skill comes when you fuse every one of these actions together to build up an incredible sense of speed and pace. It’s an absolute joy to see Demi fly through the air with grace after hitting every embankment you needed to.
Other obstructions come in the form or robots and turrets that are placed along your path to success. These can be easily taken out with the gun you’re equipped with as they never pose much of a threat beyond being a meagre environmental hazard. But if you were to fall to your death the game has an incredibly quick respawn timer, and you can even set your very own checkpoints as you pick up usages of them throughout each level.
If you are looking for a further challenge beyond the base levels, which ramp up in difficulty as you progress, there’s the rankings you’ll find at the end of each stage. You’re graded on your completion time, the amount of collectables you found, and the number of times you died. Doing well here unlocks rewards and even further tests. A pacifist run renders your gun useless and so you must find a way of reaching the goal without firing a bullet, and a fragile challenge puts your life on the line as a single hit kills you. These are welcomed inclusions that help to extend the life of the game beyond its five hour playtime if you were to just beat the base levels on offer.
Furthermore, Super Cloudbuilt comes with some modes outside of the story. There’s ranked mode where you can compete for the best time on leaderboards, and rush mode which tasks you with completing challenges within an assortment of levels. These can span from a four mission collectathon to an epic 32 stage marathon. It’s these assessments that test you to your very limit, and will have you coming back for more and more as you perilously try and beat your record time.
As you can probably tell, the game’s cel-shaded visual art style is stunning. The graphics look like they’ve been taken straight out of an artist’s sketchbook, and it creates a unique look that we haven’t really seen in any other game. To take things even further, these illustrations can actually be customised to suit your taste with a number of styles to choose from: one emphasises pencil marks throughout the world, another simplifies environments which leaves them with little detail, and a final one turns the game into a literal black and white book. All of these visual styles could carry their very own game, as seen in Drawn to Death with its own take on a child’s drawing book, and so it’s incredibly impressive to see so many graphical styles turn up in a game such as this.
Super Cloudbuilt is a pleasant surprise that manages to impress on a number of fronts. Its parkour action is intense, enjoyable, and encourages creative play. The story is deep, surprising, and one that could have a major impact on those who can relate to Demi's plight. And finally the base art style is beautiful, which is only further bettered by the surprising amount of options you have in this area. Super Cloudbuilt is an incredibly fun game, and during these quieter summer months it’s not one to miss out on.