ClusterTruck is the best game about jumping between crashing high speed trucks that I’ve ever played. It’s also the best game starring heavy vehicles that I’ve played, a burgeoning category including the likes of Omnibus and, I suppose, the Truck Simulators, if you prefer to spend your time in the latter crashing into things.
The premise is simple: you’re a person (or a camera, or a chicken, or whatever you want to be) who, for some reason or another, must jump between trucks as they hurtle dramatically towards a finish line. No reason is given for this. There is no plot, no lore: it is just what’s happening. Sometimes when I play ClusterTruck I wonder whether it wouldn’t be safer to jump off the truck and run towards the finish line across ground, but no: touching the ground instantly kills you, as does grazing any of the other surfaces found in the game. You’re only allowed to touch the trucks. Everything, except the trucks, might as well be lava.
I’ve played seven of the ten worlds in ClusterTruck, and each world has ten levels. Some of the levels are just a straight line of speeding trucks across which one must hop towards the finishing line. Other levels have crossroads at vastly different elevations, meaning you’ll need to take a well-timed leap at some point. Others are strewn with obstacles, like big sweeping meat tenderisers, rotating traps, and of course, lasers. There is a jump button, and a run faster button, and the best way to play ClusterTruck is to never run any less than faster.
This game was clearly designed with streamers in mind: it has Twitch integration, meaning online celebrities are better equipped to film themselves screaming charismatically as they hurtle into the abyss. That said, ClusterTruck is a very fun game to play even if you don't have an audience egging you on, and it almost transcends its novelty status.
Almost, because it is very ropey. Hit detection can be weird, and the game is often undecided on whether you should be allowed to propel yourself off the side of trucks, or whether that means you die. It hardly ruins the fun, but it makes the game a bit less precision-oriented than it maybe should be. Personally, I would like to see ClusterTruck become an esport. I would like to see it become an olympic sport. But that's not going to happen until some of its imperfections are addressed.
There are two categories of modifiers, organised under “movement” and “utility” abilities. One of each can be activated simultaneously. These make the game sillier, but also, in some ways, easier. I usually use double jump, but you can implement a dash, a jetpack, a teleporter and a grappling hook, among other things, all of which have short cooldown periods. These are unlocked using style points which you accumulate in-game by doing ridiculous and / or correct things, and many people online have discovered amusing ways to cheese the game – especially using the grappling hook, which can swing you around some of the levels’ boundaries.
Each level has global leaderboards, and while there’s an option to race the ghost of the top ranking player, it seems cheating is rife: on level 7:4 for instance, several top players have a time of 0:00 – simply impossible, even with a jetpack. Meanwhile, the level editor is fully featured, with options to adjust gravity and the colour scheme of a map, and there seems to be no limit to the amount of trucks you can plonk into the landscape. Interestingly, when I adjusted the gravity in the level editor, the new settings applied to the campaign as well, which is probably not meant to happen.
The game has a small but enthusiastic online community, with the Steam Workshop page already populated with mods such as “Box Car Parkour” and “Vomit in the Ball Pit”. There have already been several speedrun attempts, and is fun to watch. The levels are short and varied enough to make it very addictive, and to be honest, I haven’t felt this equally infuriated and enamoured by a game since N++ released last year.
If Landfall Games manages to swat some of the more distracting bugs, it’s possible that ClusterTruck will become a mainstay at speedrunning events long into the future. If they don’t, and the game remains a clunky-but-very-fun Steam curio, then I am still grateful it exists. Not falling off trucks has never been this fun.