Indie Quickie: Clustertruck

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What is it and who made it? Landfall Games and tinyBuild bring the speed run fun in this insane first-person platformer about parkouring across the hoods and rooftops of poorly driven tractor trailers.

What platforms is it on and how much does it cost? Clustertruck is out now for PC/Mac/Linux (via Steam or GOG.com) and PlayStation 4 (via PlayStation Store) for $14.99.

How much did we play? Playing the PC version, I completed 35 missions in the campaign mode–the first three worlds and five stages into the fourth world–and attempted a handful of user created Steam Workshop maps in an hour and fifteen minutes. The full campaign consists of 90 levels.

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements, or other details you should know about? I’ve encountered a glitch on a number of occasions where a level will start with my truck-hopping avatar already in freefall to an immediate game over screen. Parts of the menu interface don’t seem to be fully compatible with controllers. While gamepad controls are fully supported during gameplay and general menu navigation, when selecting custom maps from the Steam Workshop it seems that only a mouse can be used. At least whenever I enter the custom map menu I can’t get the selection cursor to move when navigating with analog sticks. The same thing happens from the pause menu when attempting to activate a ghost racer. Moving the analog stick cycles through the basic options but won’t toggle up to select the ghost pull-down tab, so I have to switch over to my mouse to activate that option.

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Why should you play it?

    • Keep Truckin’: Clustertruck takes the classic gameplay of “the floor is lava” and plays it out at 100 MPH on a highway of destruction. The game has one goal, and that is to make you feel like a badass Hollywood stuntman as you hurtle down convoys of moving semi-trucks, bounding from roof to roof at high speeds as all manner of mayhem explodes around you. The actual objective is to make it through each level’s in-motion obstacle course to the goal waypoint at the end as quickly as possible, without ever touching the ground. Things start simply enough, with trucks sticking to fairly straight lines on even terrain. But before long trucks will start jackknifing, driving off of cliffs, ramming into rocks, and forming massive wrecks as they swerve and crash into each other. All the while the environments begin throwing boulders, lasers, log hurdles, swinging hammers, wall smashers, avalanches, and other dangers your way to make the parkour dash to the finish line a true test of skill and endurance. Unlike the other recent first-person speed run platformer SEUM, the jumping physics aren’t super high twitch. The physics here are kind of floaty and draggy due to the air resistance and momentum shifts involved with leaping from one moving vehicle to another, making it easy to under or over shoot jumps until you get a feel for judging distances and jumping angles. Expect to fail a lot as you learn the ropes, but as Frank the Tank would say, you just gotta keep truckin’.

    • 52-truck Pileup: One of the neat things that keeps the game interesting as you fall to your demise over and over again, is the dynamic unpredictability of the physics from one attempt to the next. The truck AI and physics never react exactly the same way, so even though each map layout stays the same, you can’t solely rely on memorizing a course to find one particular line and then attempt to hit that one perfect line through the level. As fun as this element of spontaneity is, the randomness can also lead to frustration from sometimes feeling like the only way to complete a stage is through the good fortune of getting a lucky break or catching a clean run where the trucks don’t pile up so bad. On the same level, I’ve seen the pendulum swing radically between two runs back to back, from pure vehicular carnage to literally being able to stand on the roof of a single truck as it somehow made it from start to finish without incident. Of course my finish time wasn’t very good, but at least I cleared the stage.

    • Style Points: In addition to posting speed run times to the online leaderboards and racing against ghosts (your personal best time, the global best, or a friend’s best), performance on each stage is rewarded in a currency of style points, including a base amount simply for completion, as well as bonus points for speed and pulling off tricks, like extended hang time and jumping from trucks as they jackknife into the air. Accumulated style points can then be spent to unlock special movement and utility perks such as a double jump, air dash, jet pack, grappling hook, watch that slows time, truck freeze, or portable truck spawn. The unlock prices are pretty steep, and only one of each ability type can be equipped at a given time, so choose carefully. Unlocking new abilities also makes it fun to go back to previous stages, to see if equipping a particular combination of perks helps to set a faster completion time and rise up the global rankings. Every successful run–even on previously completed maps–adds to your bank of style points, further incentivizing replay.

Parting Thoughts: Clustertruck is the type of game that knows exactly what it is and excels at a single mechanic without trying to dump on a bunch of frills and features for the sake of more. What you see in the trailers is exactly what you get, no more, no less. Thankfully, the game you get is a mother-truckin’ riot, as long as you don’t mind failing far more often than you succeed. No one ever said semi-truck parkour would be easy. Speed running up the leaderboards is the main draw, but the long term success will likely hinge on how the community embraces the map editor to continue pumping in new content. So far so good on that front–at least the custom maps I’ve tried have been impressive for such early creations. The one area where the game still needs to be tightened up is its UI. A number of things could be added to make getting into and out of gameplay quicker and more intuitive. For example, it’s shocking that there is no quick restart hotkey. Instead you either have to wait to die or enter the pause menu to select the restart option. It would also help a lot to have the ability selection screen accessible from the pause menu, because changing loadouts currently requires quitting back to the main menu, which is an unnecessary extra step when you want to experiment with different skills on the same stage. The level select menu could use improvement as well, at the very least the ability to change worlds without having to scroll through the selection timeline one stage at a time. Fortunately these are basic things that seem like they could be easily addressed through updates and in the meantime certainly aren’t fatal to the overall experience.

What is Indie Quickie? It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

Disclosure: A Steam code for Clustertruck was provided to VGBlogger.com by the game’s publisher.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!