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I'm a sucker for nearly anything tinyBuild publishes. Their games are often extremely simple and yet extremely addictive. Clustertruck, one of their upcoming titles, appears to be everything I avoid in games, but I tried it at PAX West anyway. It turns out that I was right, and it is indeed everything I avoid in a video game. The only element it was missing was horror, but I would have nooope'd out of that before the PR rep could have finished asking me if I wanted to try it.
But what Clustertruck does have is extreme pressure, parkour, platforming, insta-fails, no real room for error, and a race against certain death. This game is a formula guaranteed to make me and most likely several others rage-quit within minutes. And yet, I refused to quit until I completed the level available in the demo.
Clustertruck, as you can see from just the image above, is unbelievably simple in presentation, even for a tinyBuild game. The trucks are very flat. The colors are quite flat. The shading and shapes of the trees and rocks are nothing to write home about. But none of that matters as you race and jump across the tops of these 18-wheelers in hopes to make it to the end of the truck line, just so you can try another heinous race across trucks.
The premise is as simple as the visual style. You start on top of an 18-wheeler, and your goal is to run and jump across a series of moving 18-wheelers to the finish line. The big catch is that the ground is like lava, meaning you will die if you touch it at all. Also, each course has a variety of obstacles aside from just the moving trucks. Some have giant boulders cascading down the hill toward the truck caravan. Some have buildings that shoot missiles at you and the trucks.
And the worst part? As you die, die, and die again and again, you will realize that there is no pattern to memorize. You cannot anticipate how the trucks will drive. You cannot learn where the boulders will roll. And you cannot predict when and where the game-ending pile-ups will occur.
Normally, this is definitely not my type of game. And yet, I was never ready to quit. I never felt frustrated, no many how many times I slid off a truck or how many times I missed a jump. If anything, I only felt growing determination that this next time, I would reach the finish line. Each time I died when the finish line came in sight, my determination only grew. It was a good thing I had a very patient PR rep in the booth with me.
It was also a good thing that I had some special abilities available. Clustertruck has a few abilities the player can unlock and equip that will make the game easier. For my session, I equipped a levitation ability, which saved me from so many missed jumps and truck crashes. We also equipped the ability to shoot trucks, which, as the ability menu explained, does nothing useful but is fun. I will probably always need to equip the levitation ability, and if I could have, I would have equipped the double jump ability as well. It might make the game too easy, but when you have flamethrowers and rocks lobbed at you, I will take any life preservers I can get.
Clustertruck doesn't have a set release date yet outside of this Fall 2016. It will release on PC, Mac, and Linux, and I expect this to reach speedrunning competitions within a couple of years.