REVIEW / Clustertruck (PC)

 

Clustertruck is a reimagining of timeless childhood pastime – The Floor Is Lava – except with explosions, fire, crumbling pillars, jetpacks, grappling hooks, giant hammers and… trucks. Planted amidst what can only be described as the most bizarre truck gang, the player’s goal is to reach the finish line by leaping from vehicle to vehicle, avoiding obstacles, and not touching the floor. The pace of Clustertruck will set any traffic cop’s pulse racing, as you’re thrown headfirst into a stampede of crashing vehicles. You’ll need a cool mind to stay calm amidst this havoc, but ultimately it’s the havoc that makes Clustertruck so enjoyable.

 

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Strategy lies in determining which route to take, which sides of the path to steer clear of, and which trucks will plummet to their death at any momeny. It’s up to you whether you conservatively hop from one rooftop to another, or fling yourself into the air and sprint your way to the finish line. This high level of strategy is surprising, considering Clustertruck initially looks like a smash and dash truck racer.

There is nothing more satisfying than spending a good deal of time with a particularly fiendish level predicting each vehicle’s movements, working out timings for jumps, and where to be on the road before success. Learning to master the abilities you gain in later gameplay also presents a dynamic challenge, as you learn to sync each move with the obstacles you face. Style points are awarded for particularly dastardly deeds, which can be spent on a range of hilarious extra abilities.

 

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The gameplay starts simply, slowly building in a way that opens new doors of strategy with every level while retaining a fluid and responsive experience. Controls are standard WASD to move, mouse to look, shift to sprint, and spacebar to jump. However, in this claustrophobic, fast-paced setting, these controls prove a slight downfall, especially considering the sometimes limiting first person perspective.

Things can get incredibly fiddly, and you can forget about trying to move, look where you’re going, jump, and sprint at the same time. For some reason, developer Landfall Games decided that these specialist moves are only for those blessed with four hands. Nevertheless, each of these controls are extremely reactive and satisfying to use.

 

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You’ll quickly get over this however, because the actual experience of Clustertruck is just good old fashioned, throw caution to the wind, devil may care fun. With 10 levels to a world, a campaign mode, level editor, and custom maps, the game is tied together by progression through a varied range of scenes within each stage. I was particularly impressed with the way every level in Clustertruck provides a new challenge.

We so often see games of this scale, with a similar price tag, relying on one mechanic and simply altering the background and aesthetic of the obstacles. There is very little repetition in Clustertruck – it’s something that keeps gameplay constantly fresh and incredibly addictive. You push to reach the end just to see what the next level has in store.

 

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Often short but fraught with danger, each level’s map is a new experience. Often the most difficult obstacles are those built into the platform itself. Leaping from one precipice, for example, to reach another stretch off to one side while still timing your jump to coincide with another vehicle passing by is a maneuver that requires a hell of a lot of practice.

The graphics aren’t mind-blowing, but are clear and colors pop nicely. Fairly unsophisticated blocky aesthetics won’t alter your experience however. Visuals in Clustertruck are strictly functional, it’s in the music that the design truly shines. The soundtrack is necessary for a full appreciation of Clustertruck, as a softly anarchistic celebration of destruction and whimsy. The rocky vibes pump out a level of bad-assery perfectly choreographed to the explosions, fire, and crashes you’re about to experience.

 

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Clustertruck is exceptionally enjoyable. It’s a beautifully choreographed testament to the gods of carnage and havoc. From its addictive gameplay to its engaging and easy to use level editor, it’s a light-hearted reminder that games are for playing, and play is best when it’s destructive.

 

 

 

This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.

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