GAME NAME: Cloud
PUBLISHER(S): USC Interactive Media Division
RELEASE DATE(S): 24 October 2005
Is seven years too short to consider a title retro? Maybe but tech is moving awfully fast these days. Is it possible to create a game that is entirely devoid of even the slightest hint of frustration and stress? The jury may still be out on the matter, but Cloud, the free indie title from Thatgamecompany, comes very close to achieving that exact goal.
Cloud places you in the role of a nameless little boy who is bedridden in a hospital and who spends his time daydreaming of flying up high in the clouds. In his imagination, which is where the entire game takes place, the clouds become both his companions and his instruments and the stratosphere becomes his own personal playground.
The player maneuvers the kid through a three-dimensional plane consisting of the ocean, islands and, of course, clouds. The boy may attract bright clouds and have them follow him, or he may absorb them and have them re-materialise at will. Using these methods, he may create complex and artistic formations. Indeed, some missions require the boy to gather clouds and ‘draw’ pictures in the sky with them.
Not all clouds in the game’s world will bend to your will immediately. Darker clouds need to be “converted”, and this is achieved by putting them into contact with the aforementioned bright clouds that are already under your control. Clouds may also reside at differing altitudes, meaning that some formations require a slight degree of planning and three-dimensional thinking. Sometimes the sole objective is to convert every single cloud in the playing area.
Ominous smog clouds appear in some levels. These cannot be converted, but putting them into direct contact with your bright clouds results in an instant rainstorm that obliterates both cloud types. Certain maps will require you to clear all traces of the offensive smog, or to use rainstorms to extinguish raging fires on islands, in cities or inside active volcanoes. The only way to ‘lose’ is to use up all of your ‘friendly’ clouds – a rare occurrence – in which case you will merely be asked to try the level again.
The game is bright and vibrant, yet the presentation has a touch of simplicity that compliments the basic nature of the gameplay itself. The world may be rendered in polygons like any other 3D game, but detail is deliberately kept to a minimum. The music follows the same example, consisting of minimal, yet uplifting, primitive ambient cuts. But despite the cheerful package in which the game is wrapped, the whole affair seems to have a vague, underlying theme of melancholy.
Cloud is fun and mesmerizing in its simplicity and uniqueness. Despite some roughness around the edges, you’ll find you can’t really get mad at a game that is so tranquil and forgiving. Occasionally an experimental game appears that actually works, and Cloud is a prime example. It’s not hard to see that this title was the precursor to the PSN hit Flower and the upcoming Journey.
Get it here (for Windows only).