Clustertruck Review (PC)
Andrew Gordon tries not to fall off in Clustertruck
If self-driving vehicles really are going to put lorry drivers everywhere out of business, let us hope that the robot haulers of the future are even half as persistent as the pearly white 18-wheelers in Clustertruck. Never mind road accidents or adverse weather; be it avalanches, flame throwers or even an alien invasion, nothing can deter these hardy trucks from ploughing onwards toward their final resting place, always somewhere just beyond on the horizon.
Fortunately the player’s destination in Clustertruck is a little closer to hand, taking the form of the red “GOAL” banners at the end of each level, Reaching them all however requires at least as much determination as those little trucks that could.
The second commercial game from Stockholm’s Landfall Games, Clustertruck is a platformer where moving trucks are the platforms and the life expectancy of those trucks is best measured in seconds. The player surfs atop the traffic, hopping from one vehicle to the next before their current stepping stone goes pirouetting off a cliff or shakes hands with an enormous swinging mace. Across nine different environments, Landfall Games demonstrate plenty imagination in dreaming up new obstacles and roadblocks that range from hilarious to utterly sadistic, or often both at the same time.
Most importantly, they make moving through the environment a joy with controls that feel smooth and precise while offering a fairly generous margin of error. There’s a small amount of stickiness to the trucks that lets the player get away with glancing off their sides or clambering up their rears, resulting gloriously acrobatic stunts and near misses that give the impression that the player’s always just in control and no more. Half ninja, half slippery bar of soap. Indeed, Clustertruck belongs alongside Mirror’s Edge in making jumping in first person both fun and challenging by offering some carefully tuned assistance from the computer, while still demanding a considerable degree of accuracy and skill.
And make no mistake; Clustertruck requires a lot of skill. The next in a line of lightning quick, extra punishing reflex workouts like Super Meat Boy and Lovely Planet (which incidentally is also published by tinyBuild), Clustertruck is an acquired taste. The kind of player who lives for the struggle and relishes the high of overcoming considerably difficult, ultimately pointless challenges is the ideal audience for this game.
Though it’s hard to imagine anyone not being tickled by its absurd humour for as long as they have the patience to stick with it. The image of tens of trucks tumbling over each other while tooting their horns like cranky commuters in congestion doesn’t get old, but it also doesn’t change the fact that frustration is a large and deliberate part of Clustertruck. Moreover, Clustertruck has neither the audio nor visuals to match a game like Lovely Planet, which even at its most gnarly remained enjoyable due it whimsical aesthetic appeal.
If Clustertruck does get your wheels turning however, there’s actually truckloads to get stuck into and the games far from the barebones package it first appears. Getting through standard levels themselves should take no more than a few hours – not including the Hallowe’en and Christmas themed worlds that have been added since the game’s release – but there’s also more than a dozen weird and, in some cases, game changing abilities to unlock. These are great fun to mess about with but are importantly also entirely optional and unnecessary to beat the game (but if you’re not using the slow motion, however, you’re doing it wrong). Most significantly as regards longevity though, the game includes a level editor and boasts and healthy modding community, so you really can ride those robot trucks into the sunset if you’re so inclined.
7.5 Clustertrucks of death out of 10