Growing up in the 80s, I had some rather fantastic visions for what the future would hold. Hover cars, androids taking over all the basic tasks, living on Mars and the moon, and ways to talk and see people no matter how far they were away. I think you’ll agree with me that some of these things have come true, but most unfortunately have not. What I envisaged all those years ago has formed the plot of many a Sci-Fi film and TV series. The gaming industry has also created many futuristic titles that have been loved and loathed in equal measures. My latest review title uses these ideals as the backbone of its theme, Cloudpunk represents the vision of the future with its grimy scenes, and ever glowing neon lights. Life in the sprawling city of Nivalis is a lonely existence, especially when you are new to town and have no friends.
Developed by ION LANDS and published by Merge Games this story-based exploration game has you controlling Rania. She is the newbie at the delivery company, Cloudpunk. This semi-legal company asks its staff to put themselves into dangerous situations, while never looking at the goods, or asking questions. This seedy business has its employees dealing with the less desirable people from society. The work will push your moral compass, but remember the never ask questions rule! You must nod, accept the job, and deliver it to its destination.
The world around you is awash with neon lights, and high-rise buildings (not quite the picture of the future, I had in mind. Mine was more clean streets and crisp whites, than ghetto slums and sombre tones). Nonetheless, this is the world that you now reside in. The city is full of different characters that you will interact with, these individuals have little impact on your day-to-day job, but they will add extra tasks for you to complete, and they also make the environment more believable, and bring it to life. So what is the point of this open-world delivery game that has a distinct feeling of 1980s Futurama? Ultimately, you must move each parcel from A to B, collect your wages, and live out your life.
As you progress, Rania’s backstory gets further explained, you find out why she has ended up as a lowly delivery driver, as she is in fact a talented musician. A flautist who must give up on her dreams, earning money anyway she can. The city is explored by either; driving your tanker of a hover car, or on foot (if you have found a suitable place to park). When you are in your vehicle, you are free to move among the glorious high-rises and neon signs. Your only restriction is the invisible force that prevents the city’s occupants from flying too high or too low. You can steer between businesses and residential buildings, cruising the air, or aiming to find your next drop off. This freedom to explore was fantastic, and I lost myself for hours hovering around its sprawling boroughs. Each section of the city is connected with a marked out hyper lane. Using this motorway area will speed up your journey. But the beauty for me was in exploring the suburbs, and taking my time observing my surroundings. Once you stop in a parking bay, you will enter a 3rd person view. You will move around the shops and hotels with few limitations. NPC’s will be available to talk to, and street vendors will try to sell you their wares. A mini map gives you an indication of collectable items in the vicinity, and you are free to collect what you want, or ignore them all together.
When the world that you live in is such a dark and grim place, you want your belongings to be the best they can be. Your bank balance is the gateway to an improved home, and a much better hover car. It will also buy you; drugs, food, and new clothing. What’s the point in shifting these dodgy packages, if you don’t reap any of the rewards? These objects are nothing more than a distraction, all that matters in Nivalis is people get what they want, when they want, and no one asks them why.
Hovering from delivery to delivery would be a mind numbing experience if it wasn’t for your constant AI in the form of a car dog. Camus is your digital sat nav come guardian angel. He watches your every move and tries to advise you right from wrong. His slow mind and witty dialogue will make you laugh throughout. Your other constant is a grouchy old man who barks orders at you, “Control” gives the impression that he is on your side, and has a soft spot for you, but all he is interested in, is getting the job done, no matter the cost. He will send you into gangland territory, the slums, and areas of the city that you can only dream of living in. You will deal with the well to do, and the scum of the Earth. Danger is just around the corner, and “Control” leaves it up to you to decide how you will deal with each situation. Just remember, if it all goes wrong, you are on your own, and you don’t work for Cloudpunk.
When you hear the phrase Voxel art, you instantly think of Minecraft, and its simple graphical look. It’s rare that anyone says that a Voxel game looks fantastic, but Cloudpunk looks great. The world around is complex and full of soul. NPC’s are free to move as they want and hover vehicles pass you without concern. The dark tones and the hue of the neon lights make this a dank world to exist in. Reminiscent of the imagery from the Matrix franchise, and Bladerunner the landscape makes this a depressing place to live in. I loved how the developers gave you free rein to move through the city. It felt vast and overwhelming, its oppressive nature sat perfectly with the theme that ION LANDS had created.
What also worked to perfection was the audio. The futuristic sound effects, the clunk when you hit buildings and other vehicles, and the dialogue are all well designed. The unintentional dry wit of the androids as they spoke to you made me giggle, and their cold outlook on life added to the layers of depression. The 80s synthesized music was a treat and was great to listen to as you buzzed from delivery to delivery.
My only gripe with this game is the terrible handling of the hover cars. I wanted to nip between buildings, turning on point, like a futuristic metal ninja. But what I got was as nimble as an elephant, and as slow as a snail. Even the upgraded vehicles weren’t much better. It didn’t ruin the game for me, but as you mostly fly, it would have been nice to have something slightly more responsive. Other than this, the rest of the controls were good, and you’ll master how to play this title in no time at all.
You may think “Delivering parcels repeatedly, doesn’t that get boring?” In theory, it should be as boring as watching paint dry, but it’s not. The premise is very simple, but it’s punctuated with amusing dialogue, and exploring the world around you takes your mind off the task at hand. If you then add in a reasonable achievement list, and future updates that promise street racing, and other improvements, then you have a game that’s worth returning to.
If you were to say to me, “Dan, I’m going to give you a game to review that revolves around you delivering parcels!” I’d probably screw my nose up at you, but, I’m glad I gave Cloudpunk a chance. What I found was an interesting story that unravels at a nice pace. Your action is broken up with amusing and well written dialogue, and the world you explore is fascinating. So, do I recommend that you buy this? It’s a hidden gem and is well worth your money and time. Take a trip into the future and become that delivery driver you always wanted to be. Just remember, deliver the parcels, don’t open them, and don’t ask questions.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 9/10
Replay Value - 7/10
User Review( votes)
An open-world story-based neon adventure where crime and wealth intertwine perfectly.
- A massive open-world to explore.
- Brilliant Voxel art.
- Perfect audio.
- Updates will add further content to draw you back in.
- The hover cars aren’t as reactive as I expected.