Saturday, March 17

Review: Clustertruck [Nintendo Switch eShop]


They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a same result. To a certain degree I think that helps explain what makes Clustertruck both so compelling and aggravating. As a sort of hybrid of first-person platformer, puzzle game, and chaos simulator it delivers an absolutely unique experience that plays very well on the Switch.


The objective in each level is quite simple on paper: Get to the goal while never touching the ground, or roughly any surface that isn’t a truck. What makes the it so insane is everything the levels do to make that as challenging as possible. Between oncoming traffic, moving walls, avalanches, random beams from space, a certain degree of likely road rage, and more you’re never able to really get into a groove or comfortable. In one stage you’re going to have to aggressively push to bound ahead while in some I’ve found that holding back and letting things unfold around you is a far better bet. The beauty of it is that there’s no clear road to success and even going through many runs in a row with the same setup there’s no telling what may happen.

The main campaign takes you through a multitude of environments and each throws new sorts of challenges at you with every stage. There are times when you’ll get stuck on one in particular and then breeze through the next a bit more easily but it happens, and sometimes the issue is simply your choice in approach. As you progress you’ll gain points that can then be used to unlock an active ability and then a utility as well. The double-jump is highly recommended as, when used well, it can be a real life-saver. I will note that while the truck cannon utility, in principle, is cool very rarely did it help bail me out so something simpler like the ability to slow time may be a better recommendation. Two additional themed (and shorter) campaigns based on Halloween and Christmas further fill things out with their own quirks and challenges to layer in some additional variety as well.


While I can accept that the game is meant to be a bit odd and quirky, since it obviously has no basis in reality, that isn’t to say everything always feels ideal. Managing inertia is a big piece of the puzzle for success and correcting for moving too fast or slow while in the air can be a real issue. That wouldn’t be so bad as if, when you land, sometimes it feels like you’ve hit a greased surface and will simply skate right off. What you’ll find that you need to do is to try to get yourself into some level of motion to match the surface you’re landing on but I do with the level of friction you had on hard landings was a little more forgiving.

While there’s no doubt that Clustertruck can be an extremely aggravating experience at times the good news is that while failure often comes quickly you’ll also then be right back in the action. I think if there were a longer delay as everything reset itself the frustration would kick in much harder but since you’re pretty well immediately back in place to take another shot the game doesn’t give you much time to sulk. Then, when you finally do manage to pull off an insane series of jumps and moves, the feeling of accomplishment is quite exhilarating and not quite like anything else I’ve played on the system. If you’re down for something a bit unorthodox and fresh I easily would recommend giving it a chance.


Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • Intense and chaotic gameplay like nothing else on the system
  • A wide variety of obstacles and challenges to contend with
  • Some levels play out a bit like a puzzle, requiring both planning and precision

Cons:
  • Landings can be slippery and aggravating when pulling off a big landing only to slide right off
  • Power-ups and helper utilities vary wildly in practicality, though some are conceptually cool
  • Absolutely not for the easily aggravated