This week, I wanted to take a step backwards and review a game that started a game company--thatgamecompany, to be precise. After playing their three headlining titles, flOw, Flower, and Journey, going back to take a look at their earliest game was eye-opening.
If you liked Flower, this game will tell you where the majority of it came from. While Flower portrays the dreams of flowers, Cloud is its human equivalent, portraying the dreams of a young boy in a hospital. He's tired of the confining walls and the medicine he has to take, and creates an escape in his mind by dreaming about becoming friends with clouds.
The gameplay is quite simple, and, as is now the norm for thatgamecompany games, it builds its foundation on a principle of non-violence, instead relying on emotional cues. I only experienced a slight problem with the controls, finding them a little trying on my first play. B13 didn't express this problem, though, saying he found the game quite easy to play and intuitive. Looking back on it, I was more focused on the point-A-to-point-B aspect of play, rather than the real task at hand: relaxation. Other reviewers have talked about it being one of the most relaxing games they had ever played, so I'm sure I wasn't going about it the right way.
Gameplay consists of freely flying high above the water, collecting bright white clouds. You can store the white clouds to build taller ones, combine white clouds with dark grey ones to create rain, turn light grey clouds into white ones, and draw patterns in the sky.
B13 considers the game to have a mixture of flOw and Flower-style gameplay, with view-from-above elements that flOw later developed, and the drifting-on-the-wind elements that Flower came to represent. The game's soundtrack is, very recognisably, composed by Vincent Diamante, of Flower fame. The music was one of the biggest highlights for me, featuring a very moving series of songs that attach the player emotionally to the little boy.
After Cloud was released, thatgamecompany was formed. Cloud received an overwhelming response, crashing the server of the website it was being hosted on, and receiving a million hits. The game also won a grant, which is, likely, part of the reason thatgamecompany is still alive and well today. Cloud caused people to re-think the direction of video games, and to consider that it, too, is a credible art form. The immense response to Journey, so many years later, shows just how well they are succeeding in this regard.
thatgamecompany has discussed remaking the game, and though it would be great to see what they make next, I can't help but hope they do remake it. I think Cloud came a bit before its time; the control scheme is reminiscent of the Playstation 3's Sixaxis controls. The graphics are lovely but simplistic and would probably benefit from a makeover, though the art and style should stay the same. The still images are well done and add a level of depth to the game, and though most games would opt for a cutscene instead, I feel the still images work well for this game.
All-in-all, Cloud is a lovely game and should be played to be properly enjoyed; no amount of talking I do about it will do it justice. It's immersive and, yes, it too is an experience. It's a reminder that games don't have to be violent, challenging, or mind-bending. They can simply be.
Lately I've been considering doing LPs for this blog, mainly because me playing through SCP-087 has to be seen to be believed (spoiler alert: I scream. A lot.), but also to showcase a few of the games we play. I'll be doing some research on how to make an effective LP.
I purchased To the Moon this morning and hope to be able to play it through the next week or so. As always, if you have a game you'd like me to play, let me know.