Clustertruck is a difficult game to review. In a sense, it is not entirely a game but a test of patience and grit on how much RNG and jank a player can take before officially giving up. Make no mistake, Clustertruck is an excellent take on the modern platformer, and should definitely be praised for all it does in that case. But, in the end, the real question comes down to if the game is any fun at all.
You may remember Clustertruck from a few months ago when it released on PC. YouTubers across the board either made a name for themselves or further cemented their online reign by suffering through the 90 levels of frustration that Clustertruck prides itself on, for all viewers to laugh, cringe, and enjoy watching. Honestly, it kind of seems like that kind of play is exactly what Clustertruck is designed for. There is no story or context. You are just an unnamed figure who likes to jump from truck to truck in various environments and settings. Playing by yourself can feel like a chore, albeit a self-rewarding one (seeing as there are actually no rewards for completing the game). However, playing with friends, or even for the internet to witness, seems to be exactly where the game will provide the most fun and enjoyment.
With that out of the way, how do you actually play the game? Players jump from truck to truck as they race along, dodging obstacles and dangers along the way. Every surface and object other than the roof or siding of a truck is instant death, prompting a complete restart of whatever level you are on. Levels, much like the obstacles presented in these levels, are themed around different aesthetics such as laser world, steampunk world, and so on. As mentioned, this game is a serious test of will. While early stages serve to teach you how to get into the motion of jumping and landing on trucks, the game quickly ramps up in difficulty to the point where I nearly gave up on quite a few levels (the image above brings back some very painful memories, in particular).
Along the way, players will earn points that can be used to purchase upgrades. However, these are not persistent upgrades. Players can only have two upgrades equipped at a time. I personally found the double jump and slow motion upgrade carrying me throughout most of the game. In my experience, the other upgrades are mostly joke abilities or help only in very specific situations. Though, I would definitely recommend trying them all out, if at least to see each of the different effects.
Unfortunately, in a game that requires precision jumping and movement, Clustertruck has one incredibly glaring flaw: RNG. RNG, or the random number generator, are systems in place within games that determine actions. It can be as simple as when characters blink their eyes, or more complex like random battles in RPGs. In platformers, it is an absolute nightmare. You will often fail missions in Clustertruck simply because not all of the trucks were able to reach the goal line. In some missions, it is very common for this to occur. While some may argue that it adds to the overall rage-inducing nature of the game, when you are just trying to play and enjoy the game by yourself, it serves as just a mean to deteriorate your experience.
Visually, the game is not much to look at either- not that it really matters when you consider that you will be moving too fast to appreciate anything. But, for you graphics fans out there, Clustertruck is a veritable void of flat, base colored textures with decent lighting. Fortunately, the music is a much different story. Each world has its own theme that serves to pump you up as you play. While there are few memorable tracks in the actual game, they do their jump in keeping you excited to keep trying, even on some of the more irksome levels.
Playing on the PlayStation 4, there are a few major differences from the PC version. For one, it seems like the character’s hitbox is much larger. On PC, you can generally maneuver in between obstacles with ease, while on PS4, it’s often better just to go around, even if going around involves a little game-breaking. Though, this could very well be a result of using a controller instead of the better precision of a mouse. Unfortunately, the other major issue with the PS4 version is the lack of user created levels. Once you complete the main campaign, you are done. With little replay value beyond high scores (the PS4 version also lacks leaderboards, so this is moot as well), it kills the time you’ll spend in Clustertruck considerably. This is something that could very possibly get added in later on, though there is no official word as of yet.
Clustertruck is, technically, very solid. With friends or viewers, you could very easily have a good time playing this game. But, the fun factor is not there for solo play. With a lack of leaderboards and user generated content, the game is over in just about as much time as it took you to purchase and download it, and the RNG causes more frustration than is really needed. Perhaps that is the whole point; The game wants you to get angry at it. But, what is the point when you’re just angry with yourself?
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