The iOS game Cloud Breaker appears to be about clouds. It also appears to be free. Do not be fooled! Cloud Breaker is not what it seems!
The background of every level of this game is a swiftly-moving sky filled with white clouds, but that dizzying image has nothing to do with the actual game you’re going to play, which all takes place in the foreground. Technically, the white clouds in the background are made up of square white blocks, and the game in the foreground also has to do with groupings of blocks, except the foreground blocks are multi-colored. So, they’re not clouds, and they don’t really look like clouds. They look like collections of multi-colored blocks. Because this is a block puzzle game, and it has nothing to do with clouds.
Why do I care so much that this game doesn’t have anything to do with clouds moving across a sky? I wouldn’t care, or likely even notice, the inexplicable background and title of this game except that the constant motion of background throughout the entire thing made me feel like I was going to throw up. Literally. This enjoyable but forgettable match-the-color block puzzle game has, for absolutely no reason, a huge motion sickness barrier. This could be said to add to the challenge of the game, although I doubt that’s intentional. (Sidebar: motion-sickness from games isn’t a common occurrence for me. This is the second game in history that has made me feel ill; the only other game that’s managed to inflict nausea was Sanctum, which had a Halo-esque floating jump that made it unplayable for me. Halo was fine for me, incidentally.)
The central block puzzle element of Cloud Breaker involves pushing and pulling blocks around with one finger. You must get all blocks of one color next to each other, at which point blocks of that color will disappear and the remaining blocks will re-arrange themselves accordingly. Rounds have a time limit, so you want to figure out the fastest way to get all blocks of the same color next to one another. Sometimes this means moving entire rows or columns from side to side; sometimes it involves picking one block off of the side and floating it to another area. These puzzles aren’t particularly difficult (aside from the constant motion of the whole screen), but as the “clouds” of blocks get larger, the movements required become more complex. You’ll want to take some time to plan out your moves, but you can’t, because you’ve also got a time limit per round.
If you solve puzzles quickly, you can earn back extra time per round. In other words, if you’re good at this game, you can play it longer — just like an old school arcade game. Except there’s a catch: You can’t play any game of Cloud Breaker for longer than fifteen minutes total without being told that you need to pay a couple bucks for the full version. You can either pony up the cash right away, or you could wait fifteen minutes and play again for free. For about fifteen minutes, before the request for money will reappear, ad infinitum.
Unfortunately for the creator of this game, I don’t see why anybody ever would need or want to buy the full version of this game. I could only stand to play the game for fifteen minute segments, after which point I needed a fifteen minute break to recover from dizziness. If anything, the creator’s attempts to ask me for money were probably the only thing keeping the game tolerable, otherwise I probably would have kept playing to the point of active hatred of Cloud Breaker. The request for money acted as a mandatory break, during which time I could drink some water, walk around and regain my bearings before heading back in to another sickening round.
Because this game is free, or may as well be, why not download it and see if you can stomach its puzzles? There’s no real innovation here in terms of puzzle design, although there is certainly an unexpected difficulty setting due to the game’s decision to set its block-matching mechanic in a windy sky. If you become good enough at this game that buying the full version feels worthwhile to you, you have a stronger stomach than I.
Maddy Myers is Paste’s assistant games editor. Her work has also appeared in the Boston Phoenix, Kill Screen and at the Border House. She also blogs at her personal website Metroidpolitan and tweets @samusclone.