The Matrix: Reloaded will forever live in the shadow of its predecessor, but it did give us a few unforgettable moments, namely Morpheus fighting an Agent on top of a truck while trying to rescue The Keymaker. Imagine thus a video game where you are Morpheus; you can still do all those fancy gravity-defying jumps but there are no Agents to fight. Instead of only a single truck you have hundreds of them, all going about their regular everyday truck life. Add a sprinkle of ‘the floor is lava’ and voilá: Clustertruck was born.
Landfall’s truck jumping simulator quickly became (with good reason) a Twitch streamer favourite when it was first released back in 2016 and tinyBuild has now graced Nintendo Switch with that very same phenomenon. Worry not, the game and its concept are timeless thus potential players need not worry about picking up some old rehash from yesteryear.
Another subject you need not worry about is performance, because you won’t have any issues with the game playing in either portable or docked mode. The entire three-dimensional world of Clustertruck is made up of flat, shaded polygons so even during the most insane levels (with a ton of physics engine magic delightfully showcasing the chaos from a dozen trucks head-on collision) everything satisfyingly shifts around as expected.
At the start of the game you can only move about, sprint and jump. The objective of each stage is to safely make it to the ‘goal’ alive by successfully jumping from truck to truck as fast as possible, a feat that starts out simple enough to ease you into the core gameplay by providing some very stable trucks to jump from and land on. Things do quickly get out of hand just a few levels in, with the game continuously throwing barrages of new and inventive ways to wreak utter chaos onto the peaceful hordes of white trucks roaming the land. We have rarely ever seen such a tight blend of casual and hardcore gameplay experience so masterfully implemented: The concept is simple enough so that anyone can quickly grab and play, but some of the later levels will truly test your hardcore gamer reflexes (plus good fortune factoring in due to the fact that the same level won’t ever run the same twice because of real-time physics).
Taking risks will reward with points, which are actually currency that allow you to buy ‘special abilities’ that will enable you to become the Nintendo equivalent of Neo. Double jumps, air dashes, even a Batman-style grappling hook and a jet-pack will greatly add to your movement options, while a choice of utility abilities enable you to freeze trucks in place or even trigger ‘bullet time’ (‘trucking time’?) to better make jumping decisions. Mix in the factor of the randomised nature of collisions within every level and you have a successful recipe for a delicious dose of player freedom regarding ways to tackle each stage.
There is a lovely soundtrack playing along every world, but you will probably be deep into a blissful state of zen to even notice it. A shame because these are some really catchy tunes to be found here and they perfectly blend with the whole absurdity going on-screen all the time.
By the time you realise that you can not only land on top of the trucks, but actually piggy back on the back and side of them to gain huge amounts of airtime, it is too late. You are already helplessly hooked into this unique package and eagerly waiting to see what the game throws at you in the next stage (dare we mention ‘lasers’? Generous amounts of ‘lasers’!). With nine distinct worlds with ten stages spread on each one (plus some seasonal bonus levels as well), you'll never have the same experience twice, there is more than enough content here to make us forget the sad but understandable omission of the level editor and ability to share and play custom stages in this version. Another not so understandable omission is the lack of online leaderboards, which feels like a terribly wasted opportunity considering how the game lends itself perfectly for such jolly Switch player competitions.
Clustertruck stands as a metaphor for life itself. Where do these trucks come from? Where are these trucks going? None of that matters now that you can play this game anytime, anywhere free from the tyranny of non-portable entertainment centres. An exquisite balance of arcade first-person action and physics puzzle that leaves little but one single course of action when faced with a glimpse of its pure brilliant absurdity: Keep on (cluster)truckin', baby!