Clustertruck is a simple game that looks like a lot of fun at first glance. But, does it deliver the goods or crash and burn?
Your mission in Clustertruck is simple. You start atop a fleet of lemming-like trucks that careen mindlessly towards oncoming hazards. To survive, you must jump from truck to truck and cross the finish line without once touching the ground or any obstacles.
Unfortunately, this straightforward premise is hampered by some very annoying issues. The first of these is in the options menu. There's no way to invert the Y axis which, for someone like me who prefers inverted, is always an incredibly irritating omission. It's especially aggravating with a game like Clustertruck because it's all about fast reflexes in the heat of the moment. Try doing pinpoint death-defying jumps when you're repeatedly accidentally staring at the ground or up into the sky. Not easy.
Another issue is the button mapping. You use X to jump and the right analogue stick to look around. Standard stuff for lots of games but in something like this where you're using the jump button so frequently, having to take your thumb off it to adjust your view is extremely awkward and adds an unnecessary level of difficulty. It would be like having to take your finger away from the trigger button in a first-person shooter every time you wanted to look in a different direction. This could have easily been solved by making one of the shoulder buttons jump or allowing you to re-map the controls, but sadly they're locked.
It's a shame because if you can get over the control issues, Clustertruck does have its moments. Making audacious leaps from one speeding truck to another or across huge ravines can be genuinely exhilarating, especially if you manage to chain a few smooth manoeuvres together without dying. Even when you do die (which will be often), you're able to instantly restart with the push of a button. This makes for some addictive "just one more go" gameplay. There are also quite a lot of levels to work through, too, with a good deal of variety in the dangers that they throw in your way.
Beating levels and performing certain stunts (such as jumping off a truck in mid-air) will net you style points that can be spent on a range of special abilities. These include a double jump, a rather underpowered jetpack and the option to slow down time. These can help you move around with greater mobility, making for even more heart-in-mouth experiences. While playing, I was frequently lurching about in my seat while trying in vain to get that extra bit of distance that I needed to make a jump.
Sadly, this feeling of fluidity is held back by yet more problems. The main one is that it's very difficult to judge whether or not you're going to collide with an obstacle that you're attempting to bypass. Often, it looks like a gap is easily big enough for you to jump through, but you may end up apparently hitting one of its edges and fail the stage as a result. This could be to do with the fact that you're playing in a first-person perspective with no modelled body parts for your character. This gives you very little idea of how large the person (or thing) you're controlling is. Judging by the number of times I was hit by a laser or branch that had already seemingly passed off the screen, I'd guess it's either a morbidly obese human, or maybe a giraffe or something.
This could be due to a common problem with games on PlayStation 4 in which the picture is stretched over the boundaries of the screen on some TVs. This would have easily been fixed by implementing a screen adjust option but, like most games, Clustertruck doesn't have one. Other issues include some frame rate drops when there's a lot of onscreen carnage, and the occasional fall through the floor. Some levels can also be luck-based as sometimes all of the trucks will crash and make it impossible for you to reach the goal.
There's no doubt that my capacity to enjoy Clustertruck was affected by the lack of an invert Y axis option but really, how difficult is it to add something like that? If you play games the "normal" way, you might like Clustertruck a bit more than I did but even then, I'd imagine its novelty value would soon wear off and quickly be replaced by repeated feelings of frustration.
- + An imaginative selection of levels and hazards
- + Some exhilarating moments
- + Spectacular pile-ups
- - Can't invert Y axis
- - Incredibly difficult to judge your hit detection radius while avoiding obstacles
- - Some clipping and frame rate problems