Cloudpunk is one of the most beautiful pixel-graphic games that you will likely see, and this is especially true if you happen to enjoy heavily urbanized sci-fi worlds that look like Blade Runner. In fact, even the constant rain and the fact that you are always traveling at night makes it even more like that movie’s unique and futuristic world.
Yes, the artwork is comprised of pixels. So if you look closely at your character during one of those rare scenes where the camera angle lets you get really close, like on the balcony of her apartment, she will look a bit like a Lego person, or perhaps like an advanced Minecraft character. The same can be said of things like trees, of which there are a few planted here and there throughout the city. Cars and buildings are also pixelated, but those are both large enough, and sufficiently blocky to begin with, that you wont really notice. For the most part, because the camera angle is kept pretty far back from the action, you really won’t notice that it’s pixel art. And as pixel art goes, it’s pretty amazing anyway. Developer Ion Lands did a great job setting the atmosphere of the city and the game world.
You play a young woman named Rania who comes from outside the city of Nivalis, where the game takes place. Nivalis is monstrous. I can’t tell if the entire city is floating in the clouds, but at certain points you can go really far down and it seems that way. In any case, Nivalis has a lot of height, with entire levels that seem like little cities in themselves, existing on top of one another. There are also warp points that can take you to other parts of the city, which in turn has their own multi-leveled city environments. It almost seems endless.
Because there is so much vertical space, it makes sense that the game lets you traverse the world of Cloudpunk in a hover car. While there are illuminated roadway areas that you can drive within, and doing so makes you go a little faster, you can literally pilot your vehicle anywhere in the city from high up above it all to way down below in the dirty alleyways. In fact, with almost no traffic running outside of those dedicated roadways, it’s often a lot easier to make your own path to your destination.
You take a job in the city working for Cloudpunk, which is a quasi-legal delivery service that asks no questions about the packages it transports. You basically travel to point A to pick up a package and then to point B to drop it off. You travel around the city in your vehicle, but often times have to land and walk around for that last mile of package delivery. In fact, some of the most challenging gameplay comes from trying to find a parking spot and then navigating the maze of a city on foot to find your drop-off or delivery points.
On rare occasions you might have a choice or a moral dilemma about where or who to drop a package off to, but for the most part it really doesn’t matter. The whole package delivery mechanic really only exists to advance the story, which is quite interesting.
As Rania travels she gets to talk to a lot of people from customers and random strangers to her Cloudpunk dispatcher, and even her sentient dog AI who acts as a lovable if dim-witted companion. Everyone has a real voice, which is very nice and totally unexpected. And the voice acting is actually really well-done too. It’s nice to find an indie game where you don’t have to read dialog text all the time. The fact that the game has full voice support makes it an even more relaxing experience. Kudos to Ion Lands for going this extra mile for players. It’s highly appreciated.
In terms of gameplay, there is not much in the way of challenges. I don’t think you can ever fail a mission, and even though sometimes you are told to hurry up, you are never really in much of a rush. Cloudpunk just lets you chill out and explore its beautiful metropolis. Sure, you sometimes interact with dangerous people, but are never really in any danger. They are just there to make the story more compelling.
As an experienced gamer, I didn’t think I would enjoy the low challenge level offered by Cloudpunk, but I ended up under its spell anyway. It’s a nice game to sit back and play, doing fairly easy tasks while experiencing a good story in a tremendously mesmerizing environment. In these extremely stressful times, it was a blessing to be able to relax for a few hours in the Cloudpunk universe after a challenging day in the real world. Do yourself a favor and spend a little time in the clouds. Those packages won’t deliver themselves.