Solid core mechanics betray asinine gameplay decisions and "a speedrunner's dream" that ends up relying on memorization more than reflexes.
So, I started out liking Cloudbuilt, minus the plot that adds absolutely nothing to the game. Flashy levels and fast paced gameplay hits you right away as soon as you leave the tutorial, and immediately, you begin to die. You will die a lot in Cloudbuilt, but it takes the Hotline Miami aproach of giving you absolutely no downtime in between lives, a wise decision but one that is ultimitely undone when the game forces you to either restart the level, disregarding any checkpoints you've passed so far. Oh yes, you have lives. Want to know how many lives you currently have? Too bad. While you do have at least 15 or 20, you go through them so quickly, especially when you are first learning the ropes, that getting hit with that menu out of nowhere with those two equally confidence sapping messages can leave you wanting to put the game down for awhile.
Eventually however, you begin to train yourself to fire at mines while wall running, timing the wave cannons, and keeping an eye on the ground for crawlers through any foilage that might be obscurring them. You learn that if there aren't any lateral platforms to jump to, find the nearest vertical wall, because its more than likely you've reached a tower-like segment. That inital building of skill is a wonderful feeling rare in an environment of casualization like the modern Videogame industry.
Then the midgame begins and you realize the game you're playing has changed.
Tracks with clear paths and obsticles give way to tight corridors filled to the brim with mines, moving laser gates, undodgable sniper turrets, homing, shielded laser cannons that will follow you around, and other enemies that make sure you will take damage on your first run throughs, if you can get past them at all. And boy, do they do damage. You have no invincibility period between hits, so your life can be drained in under a second if you hit the right obsticles. And you will because, while the game up until then has valued a fast pace with a look-while-you-leap mentality, obsticles begin to be placed right around corners, on the walls of verticle wall-jumping sections where visibility, manuverability, and aiming is limited, all of this with that invisible life counter ticking away. You quickly begin to relearn the core tenants of what got you this far, at least until you've memorized most of the enemy placements, but thats the problem: Throwing yourself against this brick wall until you learn all of its nooks and crannies sucks any tension, real skill building, and fun out of the whole experience, especially when that ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ menu forces its way onto the screen.
Its not that Cloudbuilt is a bad game. It just feels extremely unfocused very quickly. Take the jetpack for example: Its your main way of navagating terrain and obsticles, but its charge is limited, requiring you to be on a solid, horizontal surface to charge. This would be fine, except there's no real way to know how much you'll need for the obsticle ahead, so you might use half your bar traversing a wallrunning segment, only to need more than half to climb vertically to continue. This leads to moments where you're standing completely still after a failed verticle climb, waiting for your jetpack to recharge, surely taking damage if any enemies are around.
And speaking of damage, your gun is next to useless. That's usually not a problem because a skilled player can manuver around enemies and their bullets with relative ease, but sometimes the game will force you along a linear path filled with enemies and your gun, which can't even take out most dangerous enemies like the wave canon with a charged shot -if you have enough time to charge it at all, is simply not up to the task of defending you. You might suggest rapid firing the weakest shot ala Megaman, except your gun also has ammunition that must recharge after five shots, as much as it takes to kill the first enemy introduced. God help you if there are two of them. Shooting at targets while moving and dodging obsticles is hard enough, but when the reward for successfully doing so is minimal, it shifts focus to attacking the most dangerous enemy in the area first, which would be fine, but again, before long the level designs become such that you cant see what's coming, leading to more reliance on memory.
It all ends up feeling like its pulling in two different directions. On the one hand, you have the need to traverse the level, kill enemies, beat your best time, and look cool doing so, but on the other you have this whole resource management aspect that, frankly, takes more from the game then adds to it. Balancing these two might be possible if you could see what's ahead and plan your moves accordingly, but again and finally, you can't unless you've played the levels enough to have memorized a good deal of them, and I just don't find that fun.
But you might! Its definitely worth a try, but don't spend your money unless you're absolutely sure.