Past Entertainment Articles.
Article for the week of 1/27/08
Cloud for the PC
In these stressful times, full of commercial games and not enough time to simply relax and enjoy a good thing, sometimes you need to pick up something old, free, sort of artsy, and relaxing. Cloud manages to be all of these things.
Released in 2006, Cloud was developed by Xinghan Chen, also known as Jenova Chen, now of “thatgamecompany”, then a student at the University of Southern California Interactive Media Division. The basic thought behind the game was one where you could start and stop at any time, where no stress or saving was required. Attempting to tackle Cloud as a regular game is therefore a rather odd experience, as the challenge is very abstract and highly voluntary.
Instead, Cloud is made, more than anything, as a place to relax and feel calm, almost zenlike. There's a young blue-haired boy at a hospital, and you never know what he's doing there, but he's been there for a long time, and I can only assume he's dying. However, nothing quite beats the imagination of a little boy, and you find yourself blue-haired and wearing a hospital gown, flying amongst the clouds.
Aside from the obvious relaxation of simply floating about, gliding over the surface of the water or a tropical island, you have the ability to play with the clouds, to interact with them. The white clouds follow you around when ordered, the grey ones expand your white clouds if you have enough of them, and the black clouds are storm clouds, which consume your white clouds if you are not careful. However, the collision of the two also causes rain, something that might come in handy.
Now, while there is a way to finish each level of Cloud, what one usually does is simply to fly around and try to arrange your clouds in a cool pattern while enjoying the incredible atmosphere.
A large contributor to the atmosphere is the music playing. While it is basically the same tune all the time, it has a very calm, melodic feeling to it, perfect for soaring in the skies.
The other contributor is the controls. While Cloud has some problems with camera angles or doing some precision flying when releasing clouds, the controls are very simple to learn, utilizing only the three buttons on the mouse and control and shift. And few things are as nice as holding down the middle mouse button and casually, effortlessly fly and enjoy the feeling of being free from gravity.
The graphics leave a lot to be desired, but on the upside they are very easy to mod (so much so that I threw together the ability to fly at night in a few minutes simply by playing with the textures). The boy looks decent, and the clouds are very beautiful and fluffy, but the water, which I still enjoy flying over so much, is flat and blue, the islands mostly a form of dark green, and grey buildings in a vastly different scale to the character. However, the game still feels nice, and the graphics convey a good and calm atmosphere, a simplified and minimalistic one, much as Jenova Chen's other creation flow. Not to mention that the art in the menus and sequences is truly beautiful, with excellent design that definitely convey the feel of the game.
All of this, of course, is fine and well as long as you know what you are getting into. Cloud is hardly a fast-paced action game, or an immense challenge unless you decide you want to arrange the clouds as the entire lyrics to Stairway to Heaven or something like that (no, I might be nuts, but not that nuts!), but for a fairly unique experience and a throwback to that childlike innocence and a feeling of being free, Cloud is hard to beat.
Now all we need is a PS3 version, with tilt control for flying and beautiful, rippling water, and Cloud would win even more awards.
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