Forget about a convoluted story, complicated controls or anything beyond staying alive. Cloudrift is an arcade style game where all that is required of you is to stay on top of a procedurally generated cloud. Fall off the cloud into the black void of space and you lose, but the longer you stay on top of the cloud the higher your eventual score will be. The cloud is the only thing standing between you and the nothingness below, but its ever shifting shape and movement is also your biggest threat.
As if the cloud doing its best bucking bronco impression while hypnotizing you with its changing colors wasn’t enough there are other threats to deal with as well. You see your “character” is actually a sphere, so every twist and turn of the cloud can send it rolling in different directions. Just as soon as you get used to the rhythm of the cloud it can surprise you with holes opening up everywhere or rolling “waves” tossing you around. However, survive long enough and things start falling from the sky that can assist with your survival. The most coveted pick-ups are the ones that can turn your sphere “infallible” for a short period of time or provide you with the temporary safe haven of a “castle” that provide stable ground. These power-ups are stored and can be activated with a quick waggle of your movement buttons, so saving them for when they are needed most is vital.
Unfortunately, not everything that falls from the sky is good for your sphere. Sometimes mines will drop down from above and if not knocked off the cloud quick enough will blow a huge hole in it. Friendly space worms also drop in from time to time and will cheerfully “boing” you off the cloud if you don’t avoid them. Then there are the anomalies that attract anything nearby, including your sphere as well as wormholes, meteorites, wind and a host of other hurdles. You can even grow or shrink your sphere with the right power-ups or agitate the cloud if you wish. All of these things, good and bad, contribute to your score as you use them to build up multipliers. Your multipliers can also include activities such as not jumping, not moving, riding peaks, hopping from peak to peak and a bunch of other stuff. Half the fun is discovering what activities can be added to your multipliers as you chase the next high score. Watch out though as multipliers expire after a short amount of time if you don’t keep on collecting new ones.
Visually the game is simple, but colorful and very hypnotic. In fact, it is easy to get caught up in the vibrant visuals and fall off the cloud if you are not careful. The game keeps track of the amount of red, green and blue tiles on the cloud that you roll over and these not only contribute to your score and power-ups, but also influence the color of your sphere, which is a really cool touch. The audio is another highlight with tracks that range from rather tranquil to nice and upbeat. All of the tunes complement the visuals and gameplay nicely without getting annoying even after extended play sessions. Cloudrift is definitely best played with a controller, but with some practice a keyboard will suffice. Playing with a keyboard just doesn’t feel as intuitive when controlling a rolling sphere though. You are not just limited to simply rolling around on the cloud though as you can actually bounce your sphere using the jump button. This can be a real life-saver at times, but don’t overdo it on the bouncing or you might find yourself launching the sphere right off the cloud.
In addition to the single player challenge mode where your aim is to crack the Steam leaderboards on your own, there are also two other modes on offer. A second player can be enlisted for some help in getting on the leaderboards by playing the Two Player Team Galactic Challenge. Alternatively, you can go toe to toe with another player in the versus mode and try to be the last man standing after multiple rounds. Whether you go for an aggressive approach and try to bounce your opponent right off the cloud or hang back and stock up on items to give you the upper hand is up to you. Both the multiplayer modes are local only, but very addictive. Just be sure to invest in a second controller to keep things fair.
There really is very little to fault about Cloudrift and while it looks too simple at first it is a game that you will return to again and again. The gameplay is straightforward enough to grasp right off the bat, but keeping the multipliers going and dealing with the “wibbly, wobbly” cloud takes practice to master. Since the cloud is procedurally generated it also keeps things fresh as you never know what is going to happen next. The single player mode is a lot of fun, but take on a friend in multi-player to experience just how addictive the game can be. This means Cloudrift is essential for anyone who regularly have friends over or who relish the thrill of chasing a high score.
- OS: Windows 7
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad CPU Q6600
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: GeForce GTX 560
- DirectX: Version 9.0c
- Hard Drive: 200 MB available space
- Additional Notes: **** A gamepad controller (or two) is required to play Cloudrift! In case of emergency, Player One: WASD and Space, Player Two: Cursor keys and Enter ****