Version Tested: PC (Version 1.09)
Available On: PC, PS4
Developer: Landfall Games
Genre: Platformer, Action
Official Site: https://landfall.se/clustertruck
Release Date: 27 September 2016
Where To Buy: Steam
Sometimes a game doesn’t need to do something complex to be entertaining, and Clustertruck is a perfect of example of a simple concept brilliantly executed. A diverse set of challenges, a surprising amount of depth and the sheer fun factor make this one of my favorite indie games of the year so far.
Let’s take a look at what makes Clustertruck such a fantastic title.
The goal in Clustertruck is simple: Travel from one end of the map to the other, jumping from the top of one truck to the next. Complete the levels quickly and stylishly, and you’ll find yourself earning points that you can purchase additional skills with Slow time, double jump, even a Dishonored-esque blink teleport. Fall off or hit an obstacle, and it’s game over man.
Sounds easy enough, right? How hard can a little bit of vehicular platforming be, after all? But the reality is, the developers seem to have taken enormous pleasure in building creatively devious maps that will challenge your reflexes, your intelligence and, in some cases, your patience. You will be tested, and you will love every ridiculous second of it.
This game gets hard. There’s no doubt about that. But it still manages to balance itself between challenge and frustration – something that not every game can achieve. You’ll always end up pressing any key to restart at least 10 times, and the game makes it as easy as possible for you to try, try and try again, no matter how many times you go splat, squish or boom. It’s very clearly designed to be played as much or as little as you wish, and any obstacles to getting back into the action immediately have been excised with surgical precision.
Load times are non-existent, level restarts are a single click away and you’ll never have to complete an entire World in order to save your progress. Drop in for a quick jaunt or binge for hours – however you want to experience Clustertruck, it makes it brilliantly easy. No need for unnecessary things like a story, convoluted skill trees or even a visible player model; it’s all about action in Clustertruck. From the splash screen to the death screen, this game wants you to keep going, keep trying, keep jumping and generally keep on trucking.
And where will your truck-top journeys take you, I wonder? The diverse “worlds” of Clustertruck are easily a standout success by anyone’s measure. The simple, early levels quickly give way to themed maps with any number of impossible obstacles. They range from flamethrowers that burn you to a crisp upon touch in Medieval World to jump pads in futuristic science fiction chapters.
Each world will challenge your skills in a different way; some might need better timing from your jumps, others will need precision in the landing, while even more will ask you to avoid deadly weaponry in one form or another. Some levels have a bit of everything. There’s a unique trick you’ll need to learn to beat each, and once you do there is nothing quite as satisfying as rocketing across the finish line without a care in the world. You might encounter one or two familiar strategies, but the game manages to pace itself brilliantly. It allows you to build on previous experiences, but always provides a bit of a twist on the previous formula. It always keeps you guessing on what trouble is just around the corner on the new map.
As you can imagine, this makes every chapter something of a frantic scrabble for survival. After all, you get extra style points for completing an unseen map without dying, and that new grappling hook skill is calling to you. As such, you might be forgiven for forgetting to take the time to smell the exhaust fumes, so to speak, and really appreciate the art style that has gone into Clustertruck. Every world is diverse in its obstacles, but they are also unique in their application of the decidedly minimalist graphics. Subdued pastels give way to glowing neon orange that disappears in lieu of wood and stone, depending on where you are in the campaign. But there’s one thing that stays constant: Every single one of them is gorgeous, in their own way.
Even the trucks look great, and every crash, explosion and horn honk just adds to the frenetic action of the title. The soundtrack is worth a purchase on its own, and once again it all matches up thematically with the particular chapter that you are in. Every track has some driving rhythm to it, that’s true, but the modern or futuristic chapters will rely heavy on electronic sounds, while the medieval and forest maps go for something a little more natural. Every single one works well in helping to push the player from jump to jump and trick to trick – the pace ebbs and flows, but it never lets up.
You get some fantastic value for money as well, with an enormous number of dev-made maps. Combined with the slew of fan-made options with full support on Steam Workshop, and you are likely never going to run out of interesting maps to run. Speaking of the community involvement, it appears that Clustertruck has some features specifically made for the Twitch streamers out there, and developers have been known to drop into ongoing streams and start messing with the settings. This isn’t a dev team that was happy to set and forget their title – they are out there, right now, engaging with their fans and continuing to provide entertainment to both the players and their audience. If that alone doesn’t make the game worth a buy, I’m not sure what does.
Overall, with a diverse set of maps, a fantastic range of abilities, an interesting and novel concept that is full of surprising depth and a fantastic (if small) community, then I can’t imagine why anyone who likes platformers shouldn’t already have this in their library. Even if you don’t, you might find that Clustertruck changes your mind. From speedrunners to high-octane action lovers to Twitch streamers to casual players, there will be very few people out there that can’t find something they love in Clustertruck.
- Gameplay: A surprising amount of depth for an otherwise simple first-person platformer.
- Graphics: Minimalist and gorgeous.
- Sound: Thematically apt and brilliantly driving.
- Presentation: A fantastic game that anybody and everybody should try.