I’m starting to like the idea of proof of concept games over things like Early Access and I’ll tell you why. Early Access has basically become a genre unto itself; the kinds of players who are likely to play alphas and betas for long periods of time driving the developers to cater to more directly to them. This is why Early Access is flooded with survival sims, city builders, simulators and games of similar ilk. Where are the RPGs, RTSs, FPSs or any of the other kinds of games that make up the bulk of titles made by regular development shops? It’s not a matter of resources either, as many of the games in Early Access have bigger and broader scopes than many AAA games. So instead I’d like to see (and pay properly for) proof of concept games that showcase a fully realised piece of a game which could then be used to fund a fully fledged version of it. I think this worked amazingly with Bright Memory and is demonstrated aptly again in Cloud Climber.
You are the last of those who remained after the world was desolated by the horrors of climate change. The world beneath the towers that you and the other survivors built a desolate wasteland, robbed of any form of moisture and turned into an unlivable dust bowl. So has been your existence for as long as you can remember, getting up each day to build the towers higher so that, one day, you can reach the clouds and gather the precious live giving water that you’ve been denied for so long. Today though, as you ascend to your work platform alone, you reflect on what has led you to this point, and what the future may hold.
Cloud Climber’s muted palette isn’t something you’d like of beautiful on first blush but it does a great job communicating a lot of information with such little detail. The textures are all hand drawn with an ink on paper kind of look to them, giving you the feeling that this is whole world has risen out of the pages of someone’s notebook. There’s not much else to say about the aesthetics really, as the basic visuals aren’t there to be studied, they’re just a background everything else.
Cloud Climber is a walking simulator with a few simple puzzles thrown in. You can explore, for sure, but there’s really not too much off the main path so you won’t miss out on much if you just push forward at a constant clip. The real juice here is that the main dialogue is fully voiced which turns what could’ve been a rather boring experience into one of far more intrigue as he reveals the main narrative whilst the flavour is added in by small notes left around the place. This is honestly my favourite way to do narrative first walking simulators as it means you’re not forever reading walls of text or trying to hunt down every last piece of information to make sense of what’s going on.
Given the extremely short play time there’s not a whole lot to dive into from a story perspective, but the developer did a good job of fleshing out a believable world and narrative in that rather short time. The nuances of the different threads of the story aren’t realised, of course, but it was enough to make me want to see more of the world, perhaps even a prequel to the game that leads up to it. It’s also what got me thinking about how games like this one (even though this one was free) could be used as a, in my opinion, better way to fund full length game development. Whilst I think this particular one was done more to drive sales to the developer’s other games I do hope that they explore this world a bit more as I think it has potential to be something great.
Cloud Climber might not be much of a game in and of itself but what it represents, both to itself and the greater game development community, is huge. It’s a fully realised game that showcases all the things that a full version of it could have and doesn’t ask much of the player to get all of that across. I would happily pay a few dollars for this just to ensure that the developer keeps going at it, building out this or similar worlds for us to explore. Indeed I’m hoping that this kind of concept game becomes something of a trend as I’m simply tired of staring at forever Early Access titles that refuse to go 1.0.
Cloud Climber is available on PC right now for free. Total play time was 11 minutes.