Clustertruck is marvellous.
Marvellous not in the sense it has a wonderfully told, intricate story, but marvellous in the way that it is absolutely ridiculous yet still manages to be with a fully-polished game that defies any expectation. Any beliefs that you held about how good a game based on jumping on trucks can possibly be – if you indeed hold any – are blown way out of the water with this absolute crazily addictive clustertruck of a game.
Clustertruck has, like many indie titles, a simple premise. Get from A to B. You start at one point and must make your way to the next point. And just like many other indie titles, you have one main challenge: you must not touch any obstacles or the ground. Simple enough to understand. But how do you overcome this challenge to get from A to B? You jump from one truck to another. Whilst this may seem rather dull on paper, what actually transpires is a hilariously addictive game of floor is lava that makes you feel like you’re living an excited toddler’s dream.
Whilst Clustertruck may seem a bit too obscure to actually be fun, the simple premise and its wonderful execution make this game what it is. From the first level when you are placed on a truck and see the end in the distance, you know simply what to do and how to do it; there’s no complicated mechanics to get your head around here. When the campaign cranks up, it gets staggeringly more difficult – but just as addictive. You get a craving for the challenge. Usually the challenge comes in terms of obstacles and traps, with anything from moving mountains, logs or giant swinging mallets getting in the way. Even trucks coming in the opposite direction will fill you with dread as every trick in the book is used.
The silliness of the AI has been perfectly crafted by the game designers. They know exactly how the trucks will move and how the traps operate. This understanding gives way to perfectly crafted levels with immense hilarity interwoven with an expertly balanced difficulty. Truly the best part of this game is the level design. Each level brings a different trial to overcome, with some challenging your precision and others testing your speed.
When reviewing Clustertruck I never became frustrated from the difficulty – which, for me, is a novelty, even in games that I have truly enjoyed. The quick respawn once you have failed and the smooth controls make you feel like you could have done better and lead you into fighting with yourself to get past each level.
The excellent gameplay is complimented by the graphics, which are pleasant but simplistic in design. Whilst not overly technical, they do exactly what is needed and have a certain charm that someone reminded me of Simpsons: Hit & Run. The music is much the same, with the focus purely on enabling the gameplay.
Another element of Clustertruck that I somewhat overlooked in my first playthrough is the use of the power-ups that you unlock with skill-points. Not only was the double jump necessary to pass later levels (or was that just me?), but some of the power-ups have funny consequences. An example of this is the power-up that makes the truck you are riding significantly faster. Just try it, trust me.
Aside from the main campaign, Clustertruck also contains a level editor and downloadable levels. The editor itself allows you to make your own levels. It isn’t the easiest editor in the world but it does have a handy tutorial and it really allows you to go mental with the game. I wasn’t able to make anything of real note but I did downlaoad some levels from the Steam Workshop that were incredibly fun. From new simple levels to a re-imagining of the Total Wipeout course, there are plenty of things to play after you have finished the game.
My only niggle – and it really is only a small niggle – is that the frame-rate can drop if you don’t run the game at sensible graphic levels. It isn’t hard to change the settings and doing so makes the game much more fun, but the performance levels can vary.
Overall, it isn’t hard to tell that the time I spent with the game was a pleasant experience. In fact, I would compare Clustertruck to a good Monty Python sketch: incredibly silly, beautifully charming and wonderfully crafted. Landfall Games have crafted a brilliant indie game that you must play if you’re a fan of cleverly designed platform games – or if you’re just a fan of being silly.