Some of the simplest ideas turn out to be incredible, genius and revolutionary. Peanut butter and chocolate, for example, is a combination worthy of being devised by God Almighty himself! The seatbelt is another simple yet effective invention that has changed the world for the better. Even in the world of video games, simple ideas are usually some of the best around. First-person shooters might have various, complex game mechanics, but strip them all down to the core, and they really are all still just like the original Doom: run around and shoot everything that moves. What happens when a game is released with only the stripped down simpleness available? Well, sometimes they become quickly tiresome but others like Clustertruck will keep you thoroughly entertained.
Clustertruck, which has been out on PC, PS4 and Xbox One since September 2016, is as simple and basic as they come. You, the unknown ‘hero’ of this tale (there is no tale) jump from one speeding truck to another. That is it. It is, however, not as simple as it sounds. After the first world which acts as a tutorial for Clustertruck, you’ll be jumping from truck to truck, sure, but you’ll also have to navigate some truly testing and difficult obstacles before you can reach your goal. Also, you cannot touch the floor or actually anything else apart from a truck. The goal is to get to the finish line in the quickest time you can while performing as many ‘tricks’ as possible. The tricks really just boil down to such things as airtime and jumping from a crashing truck; Tony Hawk-esque tricks they are not, but they are still fun and rewarding when you can pull them off. Jumping from crashing trucks is something you’ll be doing a lot of because I have no idea where these drivers obtained a driver’s license; they drive like absolute lunatics! They make Ice Road truckers seem like a quiet country Sunday drive with the family.
The platforming elements in Clustertruck are excellent. The controls feel super responsive to the touch, and you will never once blame your failings on a delayed button command. It can be a bit disorienting looking around whilst in mid-air, but it is something you will get used to. The levels themselves are hilariously brilliant. Dozens of trucks will fill your screen with some ludicrous obstacles also blocking your path, and they range from giant spinning wheels you’ll have to fall through, simple barriers you’ll need to jump over, to laser fields!
Finishing in a quick time (there is no timer, which is a bit annoying) with a few tricks under your belt will give you a bigger score at the end of the level. You can use these accumulated points to buy abilities that will help you get even quicker times and score more tricks! Simple as the main game itself. The abilities range from a mid-air dash, flipping over the truck you are currently standing on, to slowing down time so you can perfectly perform a difficult landing.
That really is Clustertruck’s calling card. It falls into the ‘one more try’ category, such as the stupidly addictive Flappy Bird or something like Candy Crush. Fail a level in Clustertruck, and in less than a second you’ll be back at the start trying again, and you will need to try, and try, and try again. This rarely became a chore though. Sure, it’s frustrating at times, especially when you fail just short of the finish line, but it’s never a chore. I never found myself once throwing my controller or the Switch itself in anger. I just reset, tried again, and again, and again until I finally got those sweet, sweet points.
Clustertruck really is a game totally made for the Switch. Not only does it look great (as the simple yet charming graphics can) on a TV, playing this gem on the go is hugely fun and will make any commute feel a lot quicker. There might not be any multiplayer options, but if you and a friend need to kill some time while in a train, bus or back of a car, then taking it in turns to best each others’ scores is a great way to make the time fly.
The only aspect I was disappointed in during my time with Clustertruck was that there was no level scoring system. You can go back to previous levels and beat your score, but it would have felt more rewarding to have a simple three-star rating system. That really is my only complaint with Clustertruck. Other than that, it really is a great ride, and for the low price of £13.49, you’d be mad not to pick up this incredibly simple yet immensely fun platformer.
Developer: Landfall Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 15th March 2018 (Nintendo Switch), 27th September 2016 (PS4, Xbox One, PC)