Microsoft are promising the most powerful console of all time, but is the Scorpio really worth getting excited over?
First-Person platforming is an often unpopular task. The lack of precise positional knowledge granted by a first person perspective makes accurate jumping difficult, leading to frustration, confusion, and failure. You wouldn’t think, then, that an entire game based on high speed platforming in the first person would be even playable, much less fun. Somehow though, Clustertruck pulls it off. A frantic, chaotic, and unpredictable game of jumping, trucks, and jumping on trucks, it’s a must play for any fans of platforming games that pull no punches.
Clustertruck is a game of pure, unrelenting, and extremely simple gameplay. Across the games 90 levels, you have only a single goal: avoid all obstacles to reach the end of the stage. There’s just one problem: everything, including the ground itself, is an obstacle. The only place that’s safe to stand is on the top of a fleet of trucks careening wildly through the level, crashing into each other, falling down pits, and generally making a mess of your plans. Constant motion is a necessity, as standing still for any length of time will almost certainly result in a collision with something and send you back to the start of the level. The need for rapid jumps, combined with the fact that all the platforms are constantly moving, makes Clustertruck one of the most intense platformers you’ll ever play. Slip up or lose focus, even for a second, and you’re in for a rude awakening.
Obviously, such an unforgiving game can be frustrating occasionally, particularly as the random movements of the trucks can sometimes lead to some distinctly unfair deaths, but the stages are short enough, and restarts quick enough, that you’ll always find yourself coming back for just one more try. That said, some of the later levels do become annoyingly difficult, as the game begins demanding increasingly precise jumps that the controls and perspective aren’t really equipped to handle.
The difficulty of the later levels is mitigated somewhat by the array of special abilities on offer. Though you start out with only the ability to jump and dash, you’ll quickly begin unlocking a host of other useful tricks, of which you can select up to two to use in each level. The double jump and time slow abilities are probably the most universally useful, and many people will likely stick with those throughout the entire game, but quick-thinking players will find plenty of uses the grappling hook, portable truck, and other options. Each presents a unique twist on the gameplay, though some are perhaps a little too difficult to use effectively.
If the abilities don’t offer enough variety for you, then the level design might. Each of the games nine worlds has a particular theme and a unique set of obstacles to overcome, keeping the game feeling fresh. The “Ancient” world, for example, is filled with rolling boulders, huge chasms, and falling trucks, while the “laser” world, as you would expect, features an array of lasers to jump over and around. The steady stream of new challenges keeps the rather basic game-play from getting old, and shows a level of imagination and diversity that matches the best in the genre.
Each world also has a unique visual design, and they all look great. From the ice and snow of the “Winter” world to the Tron-like stylings of the “Sci-fi” world, all feature vivid colours and simple designs that show you don’t need a huge budget to make a good looking game. The trucks themselves, while individually not much to look at, are oddly majestic when viewed en masse, impressing via numbers and motion rather than detail. A strong soundtrack, featuring a different fast-paced techno track for each world, completes the package, making Clustertruck a game with few aesthetic rivals at its price point.
The game’s only major flaw is its short length. While it contains an impressive ninety levels, each one lasts only a few minutes at most, meaning that the game can be easily completed in a day by a determined player. Clustertruck is the type of game you can come back to again even after you’ve completed it though, so you should definitely get your money’s worth out of it. True completionists out to earn the achievement for finishing the game without using abilities should expect to be playing for a long, long time.
While the short length is a shame, Clustertruck’s mix of great gameplay, great visuals, and great music make it an obvious choice for anyone with even the slightest interest in platforming games. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of the genre, you should consider giving Clustertruck a shot anyway. The short levels and simple mechanics make it a welcoming experience to newcomers despite the sometimes formidable difficulty, and you just might find it converts you into a fan of all things platformer.
Clustertruck was played on Xbox One