Often times, video games can be a point of frustration. Even the most compelling and entertaining game can have its moments you just can’t get past (occasionally pushing the player far enough to throw a controller, which is why the Playstation 2 Nerf controller was born). Luckily, there are a few games that offer a completely clam and relaxing experience. Nuage is one of those games and may very well be one of the most delightful gaming experiences I have ever had.
The name really does say it all for this one. Nuage comes from the French word for “cloud” and that is basically what the game is. You are a cloud that collects other clouds, and then carries them on the wind across the screen. Above you, a clear sky that’s tone changes from day to night, and below are green rolling hills with sparse, curly-q tress, quick little foxes and lumbering bears. Once you pick up a few brightly glowing rain drops, you and your cloud mob can rain down over the grassy hills, causing luminous flowers to sprout from the earth. Your lofty world is small and limited (confined to about a 15 second scroll across the screen) but Nuage has done a wonderful job of discreetly renewing itself. A small percentage of the flowers you create disappear with each passing day, allowing Nuage it be seamlessly endless.
That’s just one aspect of Nuage that makes it appear to flow effortlessly. The motion of your cloud character also adds greatly to the fluid feeling of the over all game. Using the left joystick, you carve a loopy, flowing path for your cloud to take and the more wind-like you make your motions; the easier it is to pick up new cloud friends and raindrops. This part of the game play is admittedly not unlike the conceptual game Flower but there a few touches that separate it from its famous predecessor. Once you’ve spent enough time floating on the breeze, you can make it rain (and you don’t even need the standard $1,200 to do it)! The right trigger releases a gentile shower while the left can be used to insert flashes of lightning (the lightning doesn’t really help you do anything, but it looks pretty neat). The easy and lyrical controls bring the relaxation meter to 10 as well as making it a perfect game for young children.
The clouds themselves, by the way, might be at Katamari level cuteness. During the day cycle of the Nuage, they appear puffy and white, with a subtle smile formed by a fold line. When the day transitions into night, the clouds darken along with the sky and the folds change to give the appearance of sleep. Between sleepy clouds and light up, curly whirly flowers, Nuage is just as delightfully calm and sweet to watch as it is to play. The artistic aspects are only enhanced by the pleasurable soundtrack provided by relaxation musician, Paul Collier. Colliers music coupled with the soft sounds of a rainstorm gives the experience a warm, cozy feel. The makers of the game even suggest you play the game while listening to the music on headphones for a fuller experience.
Nuage is definitely worth the 80 Microsoft points ($1.00) I paid for it. The first time I picked it up; I played for about 25 minutes till I realized how much time had past. It’s a terrific break from the first person shooter grind and I will definitely be returning to it frequently (like right after I finish this article).