Hats off to Dakko Dakko.
A few months ago I reviewed The HD Adventures of Rotating Octopus Character and awarded a 3.2 due to it being a great idea with some baffling design choices and a frustrating difficulty that held it back from greatness. Floating Cloud God Saves The Pilgrims in HD (Cloud God) shares a few things in common with it’s predecessor in that both titles started out as Minis and both have now been updated to include sharp visuals and trophy sets. They also both have an absolutely beautiful art style that looks like a cartoon but the similarities end there. While Rotating Octopus Character felt like a test run in many respects, Cloud God shows that Dakko Dakko has a vision and isn’t “just another indie developer”.
Cloud God is at it’s heart a side scrolling shooter. You play as Cloud God and it’s your job to save the Pilgrims from death (I know, you’re surprised) in seven different worlds filled with monsters that range from the strange to the insane. Each world you dive into is themed and features different enemies with their own unique movement and shooting patterns, and the fourth level of each world contains a boss that must be destroyed. You have eight Pilgrims at the start of each level and at the end of the level a new Pilgrim with a different hat is introduced. This is where Cloud God hooks you. If you lose Pilgrims then at the end of the level you don’t get a new pilgrim with the new hat. This may sound like a small detail but the cute little yelps, cheers and claps of the Pilgrims really make you feel like you are responsible for them; it’s impossible not to be charmed and as a result I found I restarted every level if even one of them met their end. This sense of responsibility never diminished and this helped lengthen what is actually quite a short game (it was a Mini after all).
Despite starting life as a Mini Cloud God really feels at home on the Vita. The PSP release used the X button and the analog nub to fire. Your firing range is limited to around a 30 degree angle but with the Vita’s second analog stick it becomes a twin stick shooter and is all the better for it. You can still opt to use the X button if you wish (and you are still limited to a 30 degree firing angle) but I found the second analog stick gave supreme accuracy. The circle button (or R trigger) also drops a bomb beneath you which helps kill ground based enemies or enemies that have swooped in to take away your Pilgrims. The screen scrolls automatically and enemy waves are the same each time you play meaning that Cloud God becomes a learning experience that evolves as you play. Initially enemies are slow and weak but as you progress certain enemies can only be killed in a specific way. Some enemies for example roll across the floor towards you and when you shoot them they become stone and must then be bombed.
Cloud God features no HUD of any kind. There are no health bars or stats and this definitely helps to immerse you into the cartoon-like world. Instead your Pilgrims are your health and the cloud you ride shows your weapon power. As a cloud God you cannot actually die; being hit simply returns your weapon to it’s weakest form. As you kill enemies your Pilgrims release hearts for you to collect and these in turn power up your weapon. As you power up the clouds change colour from white to grey and then gold to show how strong you are. As you fire this power is also constantly diminished so it makes sense to try and resist firing like a loon like many other shooters. The more enemies you kill without collecting the hearts, the bigger they become and therefore the more power they bestow upon you. The catch is that hearts disappear after a few seconds if you haven’t collected them or killed anything so waiting to collect them becomes a gamble and relies on risk.
As I’ve said before, each fourth level in each world contains a boss to defeat and here Dakko Dakko’s inventiveness shines. I won’t spoil things for you as each enemy has a unique pattern and way to defeat them but learning their weaknesses was both a head scratching experience and a joy. Wanting to know what enemies Cloud God will throw at you next is half the fun. Unfortunately, as is often the case with games that are addictive to the end it feels like the fun here is just a bit too short lived. If you don’t care for keeping every Pilgrim safe the game could be completed in a couple of hours max, but I know that anyone playing the game will truly want to save the Pilgrims. They will also want to see the new hats and will have a joy in discovering everything Cloud God has to offer. At only 50p more than the Minis original (Cloud God HD is £2.99) you can’t really go wrong even if the feeling of wanting more is there. Cloud God is one of the only titles in recent memory that I felt inclined to 100% the trophy list before playing anything else and I guess that’s reason enough to pick it up, just doesn’t expect more than a couple of days gameplay. If you completed the Minis version then upgraded visuals, controls and trophies are the only reason to return and if you’re not bothered with trophies I’d find Cloud God hard to recommend. If however you missed it first time round (like me) then you’ll have a blast with a steadily increasing learning curve and a barmy sense of humour that is pure fun.