Like most indie games available on Steam, I didn’t dive into Clustertruck with any preconceived notion of greatness for the game. True, a game about jumping from moving truck to truck does possess a certain level of creativity and novelty, especially when compared to the plethora of mediocre titles that pop up on Early Access every day, but it didn’t catch my attention like games like Starbound and Owlboy are likely to. Yet after spending a couple of hours with the game, Clustertruck has managed to become one of the most addictive and enjoyable games I have ever encountered on Steam.
At it’s core, Clustertruck is based around a fairly simple concept. Jump from vehicle to vehicle in order to reach the finish line, and try not to fall off or touch any surface other than the trucks themselves while doing so. Seems simple enough right? It really isn’t.
The first ten of the ninety levels in the game serve as a starting point for new players. They help you get acquainted with the theme and controls of the game, all the while introducing fairly challenging obstacles for you to overcome. I suggest you take your time and thoroughly practice these levels over and over before jumping any further, because when Clustertruck starts ramping up the challenge, it doesn’t stop.
Narrow passages, archways, oncoming trucks, pendulums and lasers. These are only some of the obstacles that try to hinder you from reaching the finish line. Combine these with some spectacular collision physics, and you have some of the most beautifully chaotic scenarios you will ever find in a game world. Each time you start a level, it unfolds in a completely different way.
Basic movement includes the ability to look around, jump and sprint, and if you manage to barely reach the edge of a truck while traversing, jumping propels you into the air at massive heights. And while this is all well and good, it is nowhere near versatile enough to allow players to overcome some of the crazy and elaborate jumps and drops in some later levels. That’s where abilities come into play. Racking up points from completing levels and performing tricks allows you to purchase abilities such as Double Jump or Air Dash. These in no way make the game easier, but they can prove to be lifesavers in many situations (They also make you feel like a badass).
You might presume that the game’s difficulty might make it tedious and repetitive, but that’s not always the case. Levels can be frustratingly difficult, yet I found myself jumping back into them repeatedly, partly due to how varied they were on each new try. The levels suck you in, and I found myself anxious for more even after a particularly difficult, and annoying, one took me an exact 173 tries to clear, which might be the most times I’ve ever attempted a single section of a game (My previous highest being 38 attempts to solo Ornstein and Smough in Dark Souls).
Visually, the game features a very simplistic art style, sticking to a few select color palettes that vary with each of the nine Worlds. This plays very well with the game’s overall aesthetic appeal, and ensures that the game world is an after-thought to the gameplay itself. Which is good, as getting distracted and looking at the scenery is not something you want to do in this game.
In addition to the main campaign, Clustertruck also has a very deep lever editor with steam workshop support, allowing players to design some of their own over-the-top levels and share them with friends and the community.
I do not recommend indie titles often to others, but I will recommend Clustertruck, even if it’s only because of how utterly silly it is. It is innovative, unique and above all fun from start to finish, which is something that a lot of games fail to be these days. It reminds me that games don’t always need to have overly complicated gameplay mechanics or deeply woven narratives to be enjoyable, they just need to be spontaneous.
P.S. This game really reminds me of the old SkyRoads game for DOS.
Clustertruck is developed and published by Landfall Games and tinyBuild respectively. The game is available now for PC and the Playstation 4. This review covers the PC version of the game.
Clustertruck Review (PC)
Clustertruck is one of those weirdly unique games that you cannot help recommend enough to others after you've had your first taste. This game isn't like a needle in a haystack, it's like one in a field of hay.