Review: Clustertruck (Switch)

Never has a game’s elevator pitch been more succinct than in Landfall Games’ Clustertruck. It is, in a nutshell, a digital recreation of the old “don’t touch the lava” game that children played back in the day (and no doubt still do). Only couch cushions and mossy stones have been replaced with with semi-trucks, and the magma is simply not touching the ground and getting trampled by the stampede of Peterbilts. However, the fun isn’t just in careening over longbeds, but figuring out how to do so while they’re on the move in the hopes of reaching a goal out in the distance.

None of this would work if the feeling of hopping from truck to truck didn’t feel right, and this is where Clustertruck absolutely shines. There’s a dash to give you a little extra oomph and a solidly super heroic jump, which are matched with a fantastic physics system that makes you feel in complete control, even when you’re hopping across a gaggle of 18-wheelers. There is a slight learning curve in that platforming in first-person can be kind of tough to pick up, but the need to look around at different angles isn’t a necessity. It would have been nice to be able to modify your control scheme to put jump be on a trigger button instead of a face one – that way you could control the camera while jumping. But even so, this wasn’t as big of an issue as I first assumed.

What struck me when playing Clustertruck is how well thought out the stages are. There’s definitely a puzzle-like element to them, with a sense of theme as to what you’re supposed to do, whether that’s dealing with trucks charging towards you or jumping over fallen logs. I use the word ‘theme’ because even your best-laid plans can and often will fail because of a certain randomness – I think the trucks’ reactions to the environment and each other are a bit procedurally generated. Often I’d try to game the system by finding certain trucks that I thought would consistently make it through a gully or other obstacle, only to find that every now and again that truck would crash into a pillar instead. There’s definitely an element of luck involved, but it makes for a thoroughly gratifying high when you conquer a level.

Clustertruck falls into the trial-and-error category, as you’ll constantly fail and retry stages. The idea is that most of the fun is from training yourself to think in different ways because of these failures – although at the same time you could fall into the trap of sabotaging yourself out of frustration from too many retries. Luckily the game is very quick to put you straight back into the action after a game over screen.

The highest praise I can give Clustertruck is that when I intend to play it in small chunks before or after a bigger game, I end up binging on it for 30-60 minutes instead. That “just one more go” feel is prevalent – you know you can parkour yourself to victory if you just tweak the angle of that jump slightly or get the ‘right’ run of trucks. Whether you’re five or 40, staying out of the lava is a timeless and enjoyable activity.

Clustertruck is available for Steam and Switch. We reviewed the Switch version.

Disclosure statement: Review code for Clustertruck was provided by tinyBuild. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.

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