Cloudbuilt Preview (PC)

Cloudbuilt is the kind of game that grabs you immediately with its premise. Part platformer, part third person shooter and part parkour time trial racer, Cloudbuilt sees you sprinting and leaping through ruins that litter the sky as you seek to post the best time possible. Slowing you down are traps and automated defences that require a mastery of wall-running and shooting as you battle your way to the top of the online leaderboards.

Developers Coilworks describe Cloudbuilt as “a blend of Mirror's Edge and Prince of Persia, with a dash of Mega Man.” For a certain sub-set of gamers that's an enticing prospect indeed and one Cloudbuilt may just be able to match up to.

Strategically placed ramps allow you to soar

The other game that feels like an appropriate reference to me is Trials 2Redlynx's frustrating but sublime score-chasing puzzler. On your initial forays into the world of Cloudbuilt as you play each level, you'll be less concerned with your time or score, so much as surviving to the end and working out which routes can be safely navigated. Each level has multiple paths and the long road to mastering each one lies in experimentation and seeing how you can link one section to the next as quickly as possible. While it might be safer to take one path, or methodically shoot out potentially fatal traps, that won't see you making much headway in the leader boards.

As you become better at manoeuvring through the levels you'll start to challenge yourself, getting from point A to point B can probably be achieved by jumping from platform for platform, timing your jumps carefully to avoid flashes of purple lightning or deadly drops. But as you become accustomed to the game you'll begin to look for short-cuts. For instance you might be able to find an angled wall to run across bypassing a series of mines, using your limited boosts to achieve the perfect transition as you move seamlessly into the next phase. Discovering little short-cuts that avoid dangerous sections and using the environment to propel yourselves through the level at high speed is difficult, but ultimately far more rewarding than simply surviving to the end.

Mastering the wall-run ensures you won't meet death by purple laser quite so often

It needs to be remarked on that Cloudbuilt is a rather pretty game to look at, combining familiar cel-shading with a cross-hatch style that gives it a lovely hand-drawn aesthetic and it makes excellent use of lightning throughout. Though the levels themselves are often made up of grey metal slabs and shattered industrial refuse, the protagonist herself is brightly coloured and the game rarely looks less than gorgeous in the build provided to us, even if there are a few animations still to be added.

In terms of controls the game can feel slightly fiddly as you're getting to grips with it and you can often find yourself unintentionally running up a wall instead of parallel to it, which almost always results in instant death. While the levels are check-pointed in a fair manner it can be frustrating to replay a section half a dozen times, only to execute the wrong move at the wrong time and see yourself fail and fall once more, but that's the nature of the genre. On the flip-side, executing things perfectly is very satisfying as you feel yourself improving your precision control. Mastering the boost ability that allows you to sprint on flat surfaces, run further up straight walls or even control your height while wall-running is key to this.

The other major source of frustration in the preview build is that the camera sits a little too close to the character which can make traversing the levels a little more confusing than it needs to be. At times you can't quite see enough of the level to take the optimal route and split-second decision making with artificially limited knowledge can often see you making the wrong choice (which again usually results in you plunging to your doom).

Levels can become dense with platforms and decisions, the onus is on the player to choose the right path

It might be surprising after reading this to learn that Cloudbuilt is a game with a story - you play as a female soldier recovering from a serious injury after being caught in an explosion. The level select area is actually set in the hospital where the protagonist recuperates, with each level representing a dream or vision. Upon the completion of each level you unlock a journal entry as the protagonist searches for meaning – both in the complex manifestations of her psyche that constitute the levels, and in war itself. I never really found the narrative driving me forward through the game, but nonetheless it adds another layer of intrigue. With four endings available there is plenty to aim towards, even if you're not obsessed with the score-chasing that will otherwise remain the focus.

Cloudbuilt has very solid foundations – a lovely art-style and fun mechanics, coupled with an interesting story premise. If they can tighten up the controls, tune the animations and tweak the camera, Cloudbuilt threatens to be a real treat.

Most Anticipated Feature/Element: The online leaderboards will be the game's real proving grounds, as well as the source of its long-term appeal.