Cloud Raiders for the Aerodynamically Challenged
Your goal is to fly from Faerieland to Terror Mountain. But of course, it's never as simple as it sounds — the skies are infested with birds that don't have the common sense to avoid hitting a ship, and you'd think Queen Fyora would do something about those pirate ships. But nope.
Which is, presumably, why you're here now. Or maybe you're wondering how some users manage to get over 3,000 points when you're struggling to get to 1,000 to meet the requirements for the Atlas of the Ancients plot step. In any case, I hope I can help you play more effectively, whether it's for the plot, just to meet a challenge, or something else entirely.
First things first, though. Let's go over the instructions, powerups, and enemies. The controls are fairly simple, though unconventional enough to take a while to get used to. You do not control the ship per se, but instead, direct the movement of the ship by altering the currents around it. To draw the most effective currents that the ship can respond to quickly and easily, you should draw gently sloping curves that stay close to the underside or the top of the ship. Do not just draw lines in front of the ship. You're not tracing a path for the ship to follow; you're guiding it like a wind actually would.
Does this mean you should never use steep curves, though? Not at all. I'm sure if you've played Cloud Raiders for a while, you'll notice sometimes the ship moves too fast. It'll be very close to the right edge of the screen, which makes it really hard to anticipate obstacles or dodge them quickly enough. You don't have breaks to control the ship, after all, so what to do? The easiest thing is to draw a long, solid vertical line of air currents in front of the ship. It won't be able to move properly until the currents fade, which effectively slows the ship down.
It's also possible to move vertically up and down. You just have to start off with a sloping curve that turns and steepens dramatically, kind of like the shape of a bracket or parenthesis. It's important to remember to leave enough room to do this, though. Your ship should be closer to the right side of the game screen, because the ship will bounce forward (without following the air current) if it lags behind and touches the left edge of the screen. You can speed up a ship by giving it an air current that gently slopes upward.
If you find the game unresponsive, try clicking the blue button in the upper right corner of your game screen. It takes away a lot of the graphics, which streamlines the game, making it faster and more responsive. It also takes away distracting graphics from the bottom of the screen that seem like obstacles but really aren't. If that still doesn't work, you can always try lowering the quality of the game.
Now, powerups. I won't go into too much detail about them here, since most powerups are consistent across games. But please do go to the instructions section and familiarise yourself with what each one does, so you can know if it's worth it to risk damaging your ship, such as gaining invincibility for a period in exchange for hitting an obstacle. One thing you have to remember about the invincibility powerup (the yellow star) is that you're not truly invincible. If you'll look at the last page of the instructions in the game, there are "unbreakable enemies", such as the big pirate ship, trees, wind towers, and certain clouds. You want to avoid these obstacles because they can drain your health despite your so-called invincibility.
Other than these unbreakable enemies, I strongly encourage you to smash into enemies when you have the invincibility powerup, because this gives you points. You only get about three points per bird, but you can get more with the pirate ships or with rockets and large cannonballs.
And another thing — when you're avoiding obstacles, keep in mind it's the body of your ship that counts. The sails at the back can touch trees and other obstacles without incurring damage. It's important to pay attention to this fact when trying to get powerups and coins as well, because otherwise you may miss out on the one coin that'll bump you up from 991 points to 1,001.
When you play, don't rush. Instead, try to go slowly, pausing and braking whenever you need to (by drawing a vertical line of air currents). Try to get everything. Try to get all powerups and coins on the wayside. Try to get the health powerups even if you don't need them. If you play well, you can get over 600 points just from the first level. It's better to familiarise yourself with the first level since it's slower and the obstacles are minimal. The important thing, I think, is learning how to move steeply up and down, dodging all those pesky obstacles. I'm sure as you all know, the ship has an unfortunate tendency to bounce back and forth between the left side of the screen and whatever obstacle it has gotten itself between, draining you of lots of health. Feel free to experiment with the controls, learning how to move steeply at an angle ("\") or vertically.
The quickest way to get points, though, is probably with the powerup that looks like two coins in a bubble. This powerup shows up in level two and beyond. If you get this, two coins will show up above your ship, and any coin you get will be worth double its original amount. You'd be surprised to see how much your score shoots up.
And if you're having trouble with pirate ships in the second level, here's a really useful tip — you can actually block the cannonballs with your air currents. Yes, really. And no, I don't know how wind can block a hefty cannonball. When I need to go through the pirate ships, what I usually do is draw a sideways U-shape around the back of my ship to protect it from cannonballs. You can probably ignore the one or two birds that fly toward you. Let them hit you, and just concentrate on getting through the pirate ships.
If you're trying to get a higher score, I suggest practicing the first level over and over again until you can get around 500 points consistently, with your health bar at least 70% full. Otherwise, it would probably be a little too hard to get through the second level safely. If you practice the first level over and over again, it will help you develop the navigation skills necessary to succeed at later stages. In addition to that, you'll end up memorising some of the positions of the peskier obstacles.
If you find you're aiming for coins and powerups more than you're focussing on avoiding obstacles, you're off to a great start. If you only have a touchpad and not a mouse, it's still possible. I tried using the touchpad for this game just now to test it out, and I somehow managed to score 600+ points. Knowing where the obstacles are is a great asset. And lastly, do not avoid weaving between clouds to get coins. There's a section in the first level where you can get coins by weaving between clouds, right? Practice getting through that; otherwise, you're missing out on lots of coins.
Remember, persevere and practice a lot.