Cloudpunk is filled with flying cars and impossibly tall skyscrapers doused in a future-noir chic. It uses a rain-soaked, dystopian society with a futuristic means of transportation to tell a story about the dangers of trust. While Cloudpunk’s depiction of the future might be a way off, the lessons learned from the actions and demands of its denizens depict a world that is not unlike our own.
Your character in Cloudpunk, Rania, drives a hovercar known as a HOVA and uses it to deliver packages, and sometimes people, to their destination. The car is provided by Cloudpunk, a delivery service that glides along the line between legal-or-not and one that has a simple rule: don’t ask what’s in the package. Driving all over the megacity that is Nivalis, and taking on jobs big and small, Rania starts to better understand the need for such a service but also finds herself in the midst of a citywide conflict.
Driving a HOVA takes a bit of practice, but thankfully the game is relatively forgiving regarding bumping into random signs, buildings, cars, and many other things that you can accidentally careen into. You have the ability to raise and lower your height to travel vertically, and of course, turn left and right and move forward and backward. Combining all these controls is not so much a matter of skill but figuring out a smooth means to both raise your ship and skirt around a building at a high speed. You’ll have plenty of time to practice as the majority of your time spent in the game is flying your HOVA from one destination to the next.
Thankfully, you’re not alone with your thoughts while you make your deliveries as your dog Camus, who has been turned into an AI personality, is your flight computer and he helps you on your way. The banter between Rania and him, as he discovers inconsistencies from being a dog and becoming a computer, lends itself to some of the funniest exchanges in the game. He’s a good boy who will do anything for Rania and can also tell her things about her vehicle such as fuel levels — the HOVA can be refueled at fuel stations — and whether or not you need to service the HOVA for repairs made while bumping your way around the city.
If you find yourself in need of customization options for your car, you can fly down to a repair shop and while repairing your rig back to its former glory, you can add additional options like a speed booster or a stabilizer that allows you to weave in and out of traffic with ease. Your hovercar normally flies at a slower pace, but while flying in designated highways, it moves at a much faster pace. If you opt to install a speed booster, you can experience the same speed flying anywhere your heart takes you and even faster around traffic, which may or may not lead you to end right back at the repair shop that installed it for you.
The city offers a number of different districts for you to deliver to, but you’re mostly following orders from headquarters as to who and what you’re getting. You’ll get a call, be told where the package is and where it’s going, and then you’re off on another magical flight through the rain to your next target. There are some choices you have to make in the game, but Cloudpunk relishes in its delivery of chill, neon-drenched flights between destinations, and the zen of flight. Driving to the beat of the synthwave soundtrack as you are weaving around a city bustling with the traffic of flight-enabled cars and seemingly endless possibilities is magical.
When you get to your pick-up point, you must find a parking spot and land your HOVA down to then travel on foot to the package or contact. This landing is simplified by a diverse and cleverly drawn map system that easily showcases both easy-to-read icons and the floating structures you’ll be traveling as you run from one spot to another. Arrows help indicate whether the destination is above or below you as you often must locate elevators or tunnels to make it to the level you need to be on. Once you find the spot, you grab your delivery and head back to the car for another high-flying ride.
Flying around a gorgeously picturesque city is one thing, but viewing it in first-person is something else entirely. As the random people, cleaning robots, and hovercars off in the distance all have their places to be, the sprawling concrete jungle comes to life and is especially appealing to anyone who likes to stop and take it all in. This is made even more visually amplified with ION LANDS’ use of voxels in their construction of everything in the game. The crisp futuristic sheen is complimented by the retro aesthetic of voxels and therefore creates a seemingly impossible mash-up of the slick stylings of Blade Runner and the pixel-drawn simplification of the top-down Grand Theft Auto games.
Even though Cloudpunk is a fun adventure game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, it still brings to the conversation a strong voice about the scary realism of trusting too much in technology and the luxuries it brings with it. Your primary focus is the completion of jobs and while the process of simply flying from point A to point B may seem boring, the graphics in Cloudpunk are enough to warrant each and every flight. It’s freeing to have access in a vertical direction the ways your hovercar does and with rarely any pressure to deliver in a timely manner, you can take in the sights at your leisure, which overall makes the experience that much entertaining.
Cloudpunk is a game that I feel that everyone could find something to enjoy while playing. It has a slick graphic style that is a visual treat simply to play and the car, once you get the hang of it, feels like driving a cloud sailing around an electric skyline. While it might have been fun to experience the action of a highspeed chase through busy hover-highways, the choice to make this game about the engaging dialogue and the experience of flight is perfect in every way. I fell in love with the characters, I fell deeply, madly in love with the city and its gorgeous intricacies and hopefully, you’ll experience the same love I felt with Cloudpunk, as its one of the best video games I’ve had the joy of playing.
Cloudpunk is available now on Steam.