Cradle was released by the fine folk from Flying Cafe for Semianimals,and it hits all the points on my checklist when I'm looking for a enjoyable game, but that's not to say it's without its flaws. However let me just say right now, it wont be for everyone. I feel like its a game where a lot of people will drop off before they reach the halfway point and we will discuss that a little bit more later, but for those who decide to stick around a little bit longer you're in for a real treat with this one. The year is 2071, on the Mongolian Steppes (a location not often seen in games and they get points for that in my book) and you've just woken up in a yurt with no knowledge of who you are, how you got there or how Ida, the strange mechanical girl on your table ended up in the middle of Mongolia. In the distance is an old run-down amusement park. Now, it's up to you to figure out how its all connected.
Really when it comes down to the visuals, it is a beautiful game. The environment is lush and full of colors, even in your little yurt there is a mess of colors and items. It actually feels like someone lives there as opposed to the trappings of a home. The world outside is calm and eerie, one of the words I would use is atmospheric. The soundtrack doesn't disappoint either, and does a good job to help set the moods and tones of the game that otherwise would be filled with the sounds of chirping crickets and your own footsteps. It does what every soundtrack (at least in theory) should to, and that's to help make the game a more enjoyable experience.
Now on the topic of the actual gameplay. I think I failed to mention that Cradle is a puzzle game, and not the type that holds your hand. No mini-map, and not many hints beyond get flashlight from cabinet. I found it incredibly challenging at first just as this isn't exactly my preferred genre. But once I started to get into the swing of it things became much easier for me. Reading is a requirement to understanding the world around you. So if you don't like games that require you to shift through documents and come to a conclusion based off of that, then this one might not be for you and you'll start to loose interest quickly. That wasn't the case in my first game, the point where I started to struggle a little was with the visually out of place, almost mini-games that you have to go through. I don't want to give any spoilers, but they are required and there's no way to just skip them without playing them. For me it broke the immersion that Cradle had done a wonderful job of building up, never mind the fact that you can skip them after one failed attempt.
From a setting perspective, they make a lot of sense yes but in terms of gameplay it just doesn't mesh well, I am afraid. You go from standing around looking for fruits by a lake to feed an eagle to running around looking for brightly colored cubes to funky music. But on the plus side you get to go down a giant slide after every one. You can rest assured that it is worth it however because at the end of each little mini-game the plot is advanced that much farther.
The plot is admittedly somewhat basic. Wake up with no idea of who you are, and then figure it out, right? But the setting that it's all woven together into is both original and intriguing. Remember how I mentioned reading was required? The little fragments of magazines, notes, and messages that you found throughout your yurt, and then the dialogue between you and Ida are all combined in just the right way to flesh out the world around you. Again, I won't go into too many details because of spoilers, but when the game does end, it does so strongly provided you've read everything and have been able to piece it together. It is certainly a very unclear ending, but I think that if it was fully explained would have lessened the impact of the story being told. It's a wonderful story about nature, identity, and transhumanism that I think succeeds despite the out of place mini-games and I firmly recommend that you buy it on Steam. It's only 12.99, it's not that expensive and its relatively short so you'll have something to occupy your thoughts over the weekend.