Clustertruck is chaos, concentrated. It’s about finding yourself in the middle of an absolutely ridiculous spectacle and clawing your way out, then marveling at how you managed to survive. It isn’t always fair, it isn’t particularly long, but it does what it sets out to do very, very well.
Clustertruck starts off simply enough: you’re a dude that needs to jump on moving trucks to get to a finish line. There are dozens of trucks onscreen at once, all of which tend to drive less-than-well, frequently colliding with each other and objects on the map. Touching anything that isn’t a truck will kill you instantly. The opening levels communicate these simple concepts and introduce you to the hilarity that is platforming on fifty trucks as they barrel off a cliff at top speed, but beyond the first set of stages, levels quickly develop into much more demanding, varied tests of precision and reflexes that regularly introduce new obstacles and gimmicks, only to gracefully retire them before they become played out.
The platforming is truly top-notch too, combining high speed and delightful levels of verticality with tight, responsive controls that allow for surprisingly precise movement. There is no fall damage in the game, so levels often require players to fall absurd distances, dodging various obstacles in freefall before attempting to land somewhere on a convoy of moving vehicles that seem to love nothing more than veering into deadly traps or bottomless pits before you’ve gotten a chance to catch your breath. Levels are short, but have a breakneck pace that requires a lot of thinking on your feet. If you’re a person who enjoys the way that games like Dying Light and Mirror’s Edge forced you to improvise a route as you went along, then Clustertruck will be right up your alley. Truck AI follows some general rules, but is also coded to allow a good amount of randomness in pathing, meaning that even once you’ve memorized the layout of a stage and understand how all the traps work, every run is still going to be different. This unpredictability can be occasionally frustrating (approximately one in every fifty attempts, no truck makes it all the way to the end of the stage and renders it non-completable), but levels are so short and can be restarted instantly, that I found these instances easy to forgive. After all, having to restart a level means playing more Clustertruck, and in my experience that was pretty much always a good thing.
Completing these levels quickly and stylishly also earns you points, which can be used to purchase special abilities that supplement and occasionally alter the very nature of how the game is played. Abilities range from temporary slow-motion, to double jumps and air dashes, to SUPERTRUCK mode (trucks move only when you do, of course). Mixing and matching these various abilities (you can only use two at once) as I played through the game really made me feel like I was defining my own playstyle, and the mysterious nature of some high-end abilities had me regularly returning to the store so I could figure out what the next one was capable of.
The one other aspect of Clustertruck that some may take issue with is the game’s length. Campaign, the main mode in the game, is short but sweet- it took me a little under four hours to complete all nine worlds- but individual player skill can change that number considerably. I’m of the opinion that the game lasts just as long as it needs to and avoids overstaying its welcome, but asking $15 for it might be a bit steep. Each level has leaderboards that can be challenged, and replaying stages with different abilities can drastically alter how most of them look and play, but the price for such a short game, no matter how great, might put some people off. That said, the game does come with a built-in level editor and Steam Workshop support to allow for theoretically endless content, although whether or not a community will form around these tools and keep producing content far into the future has yet to be determined. Regardless of whether you’re interested in browsing custom levels or not though, there’s still a case to be made that Clustertruck is worth buying right now. If you aren’t opposed to paying for short but quality experiences, you’re in for a hell of a ride. Best of all, you don’t even have to take my word for it. The developers put out a free alpha version a while back, which you can download right here. It’s missing most of the unlockable abilities (and a bit harder than the final game as a result), and the visuals don’t look quite as sharp, but it’s a pretty good indicator of what the full game is like if you’re still on the fence.
Clustertruck is a testament to how far one novel concept can carry a game. It doesn’t take itself seriously at all and isn’t bogged down by a lot of modes, collectibles, or complex mechanics. Instead it focuses squarely on mashing a handful of great ideas with a thrilling sense of momentum and a clean, simple aesthetic. The price tag might rub a few the wrong way, but platforming fans looking for something new definitely can’t go wrong here, and if the idea of riding a truck into the path of a bunch of other trucks while a truck cannon fires trucks at you doesn’t pique your interest at least a little bit, I don’t want to know you.