On paper, Clustertruck seems like a pretty straight-forward concept. Reach the goal by jumping from one semi-truck trailer to another. If you touch anything besides these trucks, it causes certain death, and you are sent back to the start of the level. What keeps the game from being stale is that all of these trucks drive exactly like a defensive driving instructor might try to convince you they do; they drive like maniacs! Some drive into fences, rocks, or off the edge of the map, and all of them drive into each other. Add that to the map hazards that consist of obstacles like swinging pendulums, rocks that roll down the hill (some close off the road completely), or sections where the road ends and some force of anti-gravity causes the truck to float around like a visually poetic truck ballet that you must cross. Jumping from truck to truck makes you feel like a secret agent from the old spy films, and the thrill of playing the game is surprising considering how simple the concept is.
So now that you understand the premise of the game, lets talk about the gameplay. While jumping from truck to truck is cool, and pulling off the stunt can be a heart-pounding experience, it is incredibly difficult to pull off. What makes these hijink hard are the controls. If I could choose a word that describes the controls, I would use just about any antonym of the word precise. There is no precision to the controls. Jumping is exaggerated, which is really the only way to pull this kind of game off, but it’s hard to control the jump. It’s especially difficult to anticipate where, exactly, you are going to land. Irritatingly, all of the actions have a bit of a delay before they actually happen. When you are flying through the air and trying to adjust your trajectory to land on a moving truck, you need to make instantaneous reactions, and a delay makes that nearly impossible. If you can pull off the jump, landing and moving on the trailers feels slippery, and it’s too easy to land and slide off the side of the trailer. It feels like playing the irritating ice levels from other games involving 3D platforming (The dungeon where you get the Iron Boots in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time quickly comes to mind). I would understand if this was included to communicate a sense of realism, however, because of the nature if this game, it won’t benefit from the inclusion of these sort details.
These problems are especially amplified when using a controller (which I used for the majority of this review). It’s great that Clustertuck has the option to plug in a controller, and I hope that it’s something Landfall Games improves upon in the future. The issues I had with using the controller were these:
1. The lag (previously mentioned) seems even more sever. While I was trying to make a precise adjustment, especially while mid-air, it usually ended with my character hitting the ground.
2. The R-Stick moves at an incredibly slow pace, and a lot of puzzles require you to move the camera to anticipate upcoming puzzles. The Winter World has a few puzzles where you need to turn your character 180 degrees in just a few seconds, and that was impossible to do with a controller. It took me a solid ten seconds to turn about face while using a controller.
3. Any slight deviation from holding the joystick perfectly straight causes the character to move either direction in an exaggerated manor. This made adjustments while jumping from truck to truck incredibly burdening, and I found more benefit in staying on one truck until I had to jump than jumping from truck to truck to finish the level as quickly as possible.
While I’d love to say that these quirks didn’t stop me from having fun with the game, unfortunate at times they did. The issues with the controls had a major impact on the score I’ve decided to give the game.
Clustertruck is not at all bad. What makes this game shine are the puzzles. You might think “How much fun can a game about jumping on trucks be?” or “How many different puzzles can there actually be?”. The game can be a lot of fun (even if the controls hamper that), and there is a ton of variety in the puzzles. Clustertruck starts off simple, with gameplay that is aimed at getting you comfortable with the dynamic of jumping between the trucks. The game then quickly throws you into puzzles where you must quickly advance trucks, dodge obstacles, and jump over chasms while trying to land atop trucks on the other side. This barely describes the variety of puzzles in the game, and I hesitate to go into further detail because part of the fun in Clustertruck is not knowing what is about to show up.
Clustertruck doesn’t have any sort of traditional story. It follows the traditional puzzle game format where you advance stages by finishing the previous ones. The game includes a few handy abilities to make truck-traversal feel more fluid. Through purchasing these abilities with style points you can have upgrades such as a double-jump, air dash, jetpack, and others to help you navigate across the trucks. There are also abilities that make the game more difficult and increase point values. Clustertruck’s progression system stays pretty standard compared to other puzzle/platforming games: finish a level, receive points based on performance, use points to buy abilities, tackle harder puzzles with new abilities, and once you finish all of the puzzles you can use the abilities (and your mastery of the game, if you’ve achieved it) to get the best score on any of the previous levels. In this regard, there isn’t much that causes Clustertruck to stand above other puzzle and platforming games. However, it is still a heck of a lot of fun to play.
All things considers, while Clustertruck has a lot of issues in the gameplay, the games is still incredibly enjoyable. It’s the type of game that players who like a challenge will gravitate towards. Gamers who are easily discouraged by in-game failure will likely not enjoy it as much. It’s base price of $15 feel fair, and it’s definitely a great game to pick up now, or in the future when it’s part of a Steam Sale.
Have you already picked up Clustertruck? Let me know some of your crazy, truck-jumping stunts in the comments below!