Friday, October 21, 2016

Review: Clustertruck

Developer: Landfall Games
Publisher: tinyBuild

If you humor me, I will attempt to describe the emotions that I feel when I play Clustertruck.

First, there is elation. The level spans far out in front of me with trials and tribulations to conquer. Second is determination. "I am going to beat this level and make it my term for female dog."
Third is terror. "Oh sweet jeezus watch out for the cannon shooting trucks at me!"
Fourth is moribund. "Oh sweet god I need to use slow time and nail this jump gggnnhhhhh!!!!"
Fifth is acceptance. "I'm screwed."
Sixth is fury. "F--- this and everyone that made this! My controller isn't working! There is a delay and obviously the game is a cheating McCheaterton!"
Seventh is denial. "I can do this, just concentrate and don't make the same mistake."
Finally, eighth is madness. "Son of a -----,  I died in the exact same freaking spot and same way!"

Rinse and repeat.

While this roughly rounds up just how I feel about Clustertruck, that wouldn't make much for a review right? So let me starting by saying that this is FAR from a game just about jumping on trucks, it is so much more then that. The overall idea is getting from point a to b true, but the game plays almost like a puzzle game as much as it does a first person platformer.

Clustertruck's focus is on high replay and speed running. There is no story to speak about here and this game feels geared towards video makers and streamers. You spend the entire game hurling yourself over obstacles ranging from simple pits, to dodging lasers beams. Death is quick instantaneous, actually. There are many ways to die and a simple misstep will more than likely get you killed. Fans of games like Super Meat Boy can expect the same level of brutality when it comes to how precise the game expects you to jump. Needless to say, frustration and rage come hand in hand with these types of games and should be expected. I found myself having to walk away a couple of times and come back later to play this game.

The game starts off rather light in the first ten levels, after that the difficulty and tricks start ramping up rather quickly all the way to level ninety. Clustertruck is a game that always had me on the edge of my seat and I never knew what to expect next. This constant anteing up of obstacles makes the game ludicrous but hilarious all at the same time. I genuinely laughed when suddenly a giant boulder was rolling down the hill at my sad truck army. Basically, don't take the game too terribly serious, mmkay?

How does one go about conquering lasers, boulders, missiles and more? Power ups and sometimes luck. There are a large range of power ups, ranging from jet packs, double jumps, grappling hooks, time control, and some others I don't wanna spoil for you. You can attempt to the beat the game without any of these powers up but you would be considered a masochist and must love fail screens.

The game doesn't always play fairly and this is kind of my first gripe with the game. There are rare times where you are going to fail a level completely, not because of your own skills but because the game simply didn't chaotically align the way it was supposed to. This unpredictable nature makes the speed running aspect difficult. as you never know what you might get from one run to the next.

One particular level that highlights this chaotic nature was Steampunk eight. The floor is sending everything forward incredibly fast and trucks are constantly colliding and exploding. By the end of the level you may not have a truck to land on near the goal, and you sit there with nothing to do. There are some power ups to counter this but I didn't have one that at the time. It was frustrating and felt as if I had been cheated.

I could've gone back and earned up enough points to buy the power up, but every level can be beaten with no power ups. So after an hour, I finally got lucky and trucks aligned the right way for me to complete it. Keep in mind this is a minor gripe, the game is very tongue in cheek and really just wants to make you laugh and rage a bit. This is more a warning to speed runners and people who may take the game a bit more seriously.

Once you do manage to beat all the levels in the game, the fun is far from over, as the game features steam workshop support. Insane Mario-esque levels and more await players and gives the game another truck of life. The content creator is simple enough and lends itself to just about any creation. If I had the patience for that type of thing I would've made one myself.

Aesthetically Clustertruck runs par for the course. It isn't the most gorgeous game in the world and sound wise there is nothing to write home about. They are well done, mind you, but nothing that is going to blow your mind. The level design is something of note though and the themes change in fun and dramatic ways every ten levels. Something to keep in mind is that touching the edge or even a sliver of any corner, may lead to a fail screen. Certain bulky square levels can lead to some serious frustration.

A strange thing, which I had a hard time believing, is that I found this game WAY easier to play with keyboard and mouse than with a controller. That is unless you have giant fingers and are proficient at pressing five buttons independently, all at the same time while moving the directional stick and moving the camera. You are moving so ridiculously fast in a forward direction, that moving side to side is extremely difficult with a controller. You may have a different experience than I did, but I found the controller to be very awkward and clunky.

Is the game a revolution of gaming mechanics? No, but it is sure damn fun and very good at distracting you.

While playing Clustertruck, such strange sounds and profanities escaped my mouth that my wife hired a young priest and an old priest. Not many games incite such rage in me and still let me have fun at the same time. You're going to get plenty of bang for your buck and there are plenty of levels being made by the community. Little things like Supertruck mode and "Coal" make this game worth it.

So have fun with it, don't take it terribly serious and enjoy dodging missiles, cursing like a sailor and the sweet, sweet, screen of victory.

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