By William Shelton
Release Date: September 16, 2016
Systems: PC (Reviewed), PS4, Mac
Developer: Landfall Games
Obtained By: Review Code Provided by tinyBuild
ClusterTruck is an annoying game to try and review. While the game is truly great (in fact, it would make my top 5 easy if I bothered to do the whole “game of the year” thing), it only really does one thing throughout making it kind of a pain to talk about. Sure, the team at Landfall Games polished that one thing to a mirror shine and created one of the most fun and chaotic games i’ve every played…but how do I stretch that basic idea into a review worth reading? Truck if I know, but I’m going to anyways.
In ClusterTruck you play as Laurence Fishburne circa 2003 as he undergoes a verity of different stunts while the Wachowski’s slowly make up their mind on how they want the highway section of The Matrix Reloaded to end. That’s…not even remotely true. But it’s a better story than the one the game actually provides. When I said ClusterTruck sticks to one core idea I meant it, and that one idea is not “tell a compelling story.” Once you hit “Play” you’re thrown right into the gameplay with nary a rhyme or reason.
And what is that game play that I’ve been trying not to talk about in order to give this review a…semi….decent length? Well, it’s a platformer where you jump from one semi-truck to another until you reach the goal at the end. I know, that sounds suuuuuper exciting, but the real fun comes from just how much chaos the team at Landfall games manage to ring out of that idea. The trucks drive into each other, off cliffs and pushed around like paper planes in a hurricane. If you hit the ground or any other parts of the world, you start the level over. While this is already a pretty cliché way too put it, ClusterTruck really does feel like a particularly hectic game of “The Floor is Lava”. Be that as it may, I think the comparison is rather apt.
Really the only way I can truly describe ClusterTruck is “childish”. Everything form the core idea to the name of the game (get it guys, it sounds like FUCK, haha) feels like the kind of thing a hyperactive six-year-old would think up. And just like that hyperactive six-year-old, just existing in the lunacy is enough to have a good time. ClusterTruck isn’t deep or moving or emotional, but it is a blast. It is made with a childs energy and creativity and a professionals talent and skill.
The only place where the game falters, even a little, is in how unpredictable it can be. While the stages never reach roguelike levels of randomness, the physics engine doesn’t always react the same way to the same stimuli. While it was possible to plan out who to reach the goal, the in game trucks weren’t always were I thought they should be as they didn’t react to the hazards I was planing around the same way they did when I made my plan. This lead to a lot of deaths that I didn’t feel were my fault. But, while that could have been really frustrating the super fast respawn time gave me almost no chance to think about it. Save for those times when the respawn happened so fast that I ended up jumping or using an ability right out the gate and died instantly again.
I haven’t beaten the game yet, I’m about half way through world 8 (each world have 10 levels) and I haven’t even touched the seasonal maps yet. That’s been making writing this review that much harder as every time I sit down and think about the game all I want to do is go back and play some more of it. The soundtrack is just as much fun to listen too as the game is too play, and the unlockable abilities (like double jump, “bullet time” (you are playing a Matrix character, after all), and a jetpack), while pretty much useless, offer incentive too keep playing. I can’t tell you if it’s worth the $15 asking price, but I wouldn’t have minded paying for it. Now, excuse me as I get the Truck outta here and go play some more.