STAFF REVIEW of ClusterTruck (Xbox One)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016.
by Jennifer Dingle

ClusterTruck Box art Jumping on trucks. That’s it. You’re not shooting anything, you’re not fighting anything, you just jump on trucks. That’s the best way to describe ClusterTruck. At its core, developer Landfall Games physics based platformer is nothing more that jumping across a series of moving trucks to reach a goal. With a premise like that it has the potential to be boring and repetitive, but surprisingly this “truckformer” is well designed and filled with some very wild and crazy obstacles, making jumping on trucks incredibly enjoyable!

When I first picked up the controller to play I must admit, my first impression wasn’t a good one. I did not like it. Playing through the first two or three levels felt odd to me. Clustertruck is entirely first person and not being able to see my character as I made my way from truck to truck really threw me off. At first glance you simply run from truck to truck towards the finish trying not to fall or touch anything in your path. There isn’t much to look at in the environment, the trucks themselves are plain white and there is not much going on other than the trucks you see driving. You would think that it would get dull and boring after a few levels, but I stuck with it and I was pleasantly surprised. As I made my way through the first world I soon realized that ClusterTruck is like no other platform game I’ve played before.

I don’t know who is driving these trucks, but they are terrible drivers, often flipping off the road and crashing into one another, which makes for some very fast paced and chaotic platforming gameplay. The level design is absolutely fantastic, making for some death defying moves in your race to the finish. From jumping down from one truck to another, travelling in an opposite direction to walls closing just as you reach your goal, you definitely need to think fast about your next move. With worlds named Winter, Laser, Ancient, and Hell, you can only imagine the crazy and insane hazards that will be thrown at you. Turning sprockets to jump through at just the right moment, burning lasers to avoid as the trucks go racing by at a breakneck speed, to falling boulders and logs, each level has its own set of unique traps and obstacles to encounter that are utterly ridiculous, but insanely fun.

You are awarded points at the end of each level, based on your maneuvers from truck to truck, on how fast you complete the level, and how stylishly you do so, like getting lots of air when jumping. These points can be used to purchase new abilities to change up gameplay, movements, and utilities, with only one of each that are able to be equipped at one time. I should note that they are not needed to complete the game. To be honest, I often forget about purchasing these as I was quite eager to continue on to the next world. That being said, the double jump and slow time I purchased were somewhat beneficial in the later stages of the game.

Controls are simple to master, and other than a few sticky moments here and there which caused an unfair and untimely demise, they felt pretty tight. You use the analog sticks to move and the triggers to access special abilities. Even though the controls are fairly simple, the game is extremely challenging and death will be a common occurrence, especially in the later levels, yet the extremely addictive gameplay keeps you eagerly coming back for more, and leaves you feeling extremely accomplished and satisfied when you suddenly find yourself finally reaching the goal after your 50th try.

I can’t help feeling that you are not entirely responsible for your fate. Sure, there is a fair bit of skill required, as perfectly timing your jumps between trucks it essential for survival, but quite often I felt like it was sheer luck that I was able to complete a level. The trucks, while always heading the direction of the goal, act randomly, their patterns erratic, and you never know when one might crash into another, head off into another direction, or explode after impacting an obstacle. This random behavior frequently caused me to miss a jump or have no truck to jump onto all, something I had absolutely have no control of and had no choice but to try again.

While there is not much to look at, the simplicity of the visuals, the clean and simple look of the trucks and the environments actually works quite well in ClusterTruck, allowing you to focus on the gameplay itself, rather than what’s going on around you. The soundtrack for each level is upbeat and fitting for the fast-paced gameplay filled with pulsating beats that perfectly accompany the movement of jumping truck to truck.

Noticeably missing was a leaderboard, which I thought was strange, considering there are points awarded when you reach the end of a level. It would add an extra incentive to play through again, seeking to reach the goal faster and more stylish than your friends. Even without the online leaderboard, ClusterTruck offers high replay value though, with 9 different worlds and 90 chaotic levels to play through, and the unlockable movements and utilities change the gameplay enough to make you want play through again and again.

ClusterTrack is very aptly named. At times it truly is a complete cluster &$%@, but in a good way! It’s a chaotic, yet smartly designed platformer, one of the best I’ve played it quite some time. While there were a few notable flaws, the simple yet challenging gameplay makes for an enjoyable, and incredibly addictive experience. I never thought that a game about simply jumping on trucks could be so damn fun! ClusterTruck is a great addition to the ID@Xbox library, and I highly recommend it to gamers of all levels.

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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