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 keep 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 are also your biggest threat.
As if the cloud making 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 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, if you survive long enough, things that can assist with your survival start falling from the sky. The most coveted pick-ups are the ones that can turn your sphere “infallible” for a short period or provide you with the temporary safe haven of a “castle” that provides 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 quickly enough, blow a massive hole in it. Friendly space worms also drop in occasionally 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 quickly if you don’t keep 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 cool touch. The audio is another highlight, with tracks that range from relatively tranquil to nice and upbeat. 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. However, playing with a keyboard feels less intuitive when controlling a rolling sphere. You are not limited to simply rolling around on the cloud, though, as you can bounce your sphere using the jump button. Sometimes, this can be a real lifesaver, 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. The local modes can now be enjoyed online thanks to Steam’s “Remote Play Together” feature.
There really is 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 keeps things fresh, as you never know what will happen next. The single-player mode is a lot of fun, but take on a friend in multiplayer to experience just how addictive the game can be. Cloudrift is essential for anyone who loves playing with friends or relishes 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 ****