Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Clustertruck Review (XONE)

Ultra-difficult 2D platformers have been popular among indie developers and gamers for a while now, but no one had really pushed the 3D platforming envelope until Clustertruck appeared on consoles and Steam in 2016. This challenging first-person 3D platformer has you jumping around on moving trucks as they rumble and tumble across ever rougher and more obstacle-filled landscapes and can be surprisingly addictive and very fun. At least until the difficulty suddenly ramps up and the funny concept isn’t so novel anymore. Gamers looking for a unique game with a high skill ceiling will like it, but it won’t be for everyone. See our full Clustertruck Xbox One review.

Game Details

  • Publisher: tinyBuild GAMES
  • Developer: Landfall Games
  • ESRB Rating: “E” for Everyone
  • Genre: 3D Platforming
  • Pros: Addictive gameplay; instant restarts; lots of content
  • Cons: A bit one-note; gets frustrating fast
  • MSRP: $15

As described above, Clustertruck is a first-person platforming game where you run and jump around on top of moving trucks. The levels start out flat and easy, but soon start getting bumpier and full of obstacles and canyons to jump over and crazy stuff is happening all over and trucks are crashing and tumbling everywhere and turns into utter chaos. The whole concept is crazy and undeniably appealing just because of how nuts it is.

The controls are very precise and smartly designed. You can move with one stick, look around with the other, sprint with the R trigger, and jump with the A button. That’s it. As the levels get more difficult you really have to look around and pay attention to patterns and come up with a strategy about when and where and how to jump to the next truck in order to get to the end. As you play you also earn points that let you unlock special abilities like air dashes, double jumps, and other crazy tricks you’ll need in order to tackle the game’s increasingly difficult levels. The best part is that you immediately restart when you fail a level which gives the game a very addictive quality because trying and trying and trying over and over again is so fast and effortless.

The problem with Clustertruck is that the difficulty ramps up a little too quickly and starts getting frustrating long before you earn enough points to start unlocking the cool abilities and can see just how crazy the game really gets. While the concept is funny and cool, it is pretty much a one-trick pony and doesn’t really offer much incentive to go back and replay past levels to earn more points to buy new abilities to help you pass the difficult stuff. If the pace of unlocking stuff was a little quicker it would improve the experience immensely, but as it stands most people will probably get frustrated and / or bored long before they see the best stuff the game has to offer. Not a good scenario for a $15 game unless you're desperately in need of another measuring stick for a hardcore gaming "Extreme Difficulty" dick waving contest.

Presentation-wise, Clustertruck is pretty nice all around. The visuals are very simple with worlds made up of flat non-textured polygons with equally simple looking trucks driving across them, but it gives you more than enough visual information to know exactly what you’re looking at. The game runs at a smooth framerate, too, which is important considering the extremely tight timing windows on some of the jumps you need to make. The sound is also good, though surprisingly subdued in spite of the carnage that may be happening onscreen, and the electronic soundtrack suits the action perfectly.

Clustertruck is a unique 3D take on the same sort of extreme difficulty that made 2D platforming games like Super Meat Boy and VVVVV popular. If you consider overcoming tough obstacles to be enough of its own reward, you’ll enjoy Clustertruck. If you get frustrated easily and need more “meat” in a game than a silly concept and crazy difficulty, it’s probably best to skip it. I fall somewhere kind of in between, personally.