ClusterTruck: wacky physics based, big rig hijinks!!
ClusterTruck is an answer to the question: What if someone took that one Gang Beast stage with the trucks and made a game out of it? The game is wacky and filled with physics based randomness. Whether the execution of that concept is fun depends mostly on how much players like first person platforming.
The gameplay of Cluster Truck is simple but fun. ClusterTruck is essentially a first-person obstacle course that takes place on the roofs of moving big rigs. Each level of the game consists of several dozen big rigs which race down a prescribed track. Every ten levels are collected in worlds distinguished by the style of their background. The player must attempt to reach the end of the track without falling off the big rigs or hitting any obstacles along the way. These obstacles range from simple logs that need to be jumped over to sweeping hammers that will knock entire waves of trucks off the path. While the trucks travel through the level, they naturally collide with one another or crash against obstacles, adding a random layer of challenge to each attempt. As the game progresses, the tracks become complicated to positively wacky proportions, including jumps for the trucks, areas where the track falls away or long gaps with reversed or zero gravity.
As players finish levels, they earn style points based off a number of factors like completion time or jumping on a crashing truck. These points can be used to purchase new character abilities, such as a double jump, air dash, or bullet time. This mechanic is part of what controls ClusterTruck’s difficulty curve. Later levels would be practically impossible with only the default dash and jump abilities. The other control on the difficulty is the previously mentioned wacky, random, complexity of the tracks.
What makes ClusterTruck fun is character mobility; think Quake II movement speed with a higher jump – which is to say very very fast. Add to that the fact that the whole game takes place on a chaotic mass of moving big rigs constantly bouncing, bumping, and crashing. The game controls pretty well, if maybe a little swimmy with a gamepad. Mouse and keyboard is probably the best way to play this game. Cluster Truck also contains a pretty fully featured set of track creation tools, which is a nice way to add replayability to a pretty small game.
The presentation of ClusterTruck is bare bones but not necessarily in a bad way. Everything about the game is simple and clean. The art style and color pallet are fairly simple without being completely uninteresting. The menu setup is designed to get the player playing as quickly as possible. The word that best suits the style of ClusterTruck is streamlined. There is nothing unnecessary or tacked on in this game, which doesn’t excuse some of the things ClusterTruck lacks.
Namely what the game lacks is any kind of hook for a player looking for some depth in their gaming experience. The primary flaw of ClusterTruck is that it puts all its eggs in one basket. A game that totally focuses on gameplay can work but only if that gameplay is broad enough to draw in a wide variety of players. Unfortunately, first person platforming, no matter how silly, gets old pretty quick. The game is fun but only to a point, and that point comes and goes way too fast.
ClusterTruck sacrifices visuals for frame rate. The game doesn’t look bad. It just lacks detail and polish when it comes to the graphics, but this has the advantage of making the game run at a very high frame rate. This high frame rate is just another example of the way ClusterTruck prioritises design elements. Speed is the number one priority in ClusterTruck – everything else is secondary. The game also has a nearly instantaneous restart after the player dies, which is absolutely essential since death happens constantly in this game.
There isn’t really much to say about the sound design in ClusterTruck either. The soundtrack is just OK. The sound effects are present. Nothing is grating or annoying about the design, but nothing is really that interesting about it either. This does make the sound design fit in with the overall streamlined nature of the design of ClusterTruck, but it is definitely one of the weaker aspects of the game.
While it is fun to play ClusterTruck, there just isn’t really much to the game overall. The game is perhaps a bit too streamlined for its own good. ClusterTruck just feels flimsy, like the whole thing is just about to shake itself apart at any minute. As stated before, this does have the advantage of keeping frame rates high but at the cost of virtually all polish and detail in the design. There also isn’t much personality to the game. There is wackiness in the track design, but it doesn’t feel intentional. Instead, the whole thing feels random and ramshackle.
At $14.99, ClusterTruck is fairly priced for a game with a fairly fully featured track builder. This is the main saving grace for this game’s replay value. If the ClusterTruck gets enough of a following for there to be a robust track building community, then players may have something to do here once they’ve set personal best times on all the official tracks which probably won’t take too long.
Ultimately, ClusterTruck is fun. If a particular player is into first person platforming, it’s going to be a blast. But for literally every other type of person, ClusterTruck has practically nothing to offer. The addition of a track editor is great but only for people who already like this type of gameplay. It almost feels like a really huge tutorial for the first person movement mechanic of some other game. It’s also still fun in a wacky, silly kind of way.