The plethora of indies gracing the PlayStation 4 keep on coming, and while not every single one of them is a knockout, there have been a few stunners over the past year. To add to the ever growing list is a game with a name that isn’t afraid to play with words. Enter Cluster...Er, Fluster Cluck – a four-player competitive twin-stick shooter. The question is: is this release from Loot Entertainment more appealing than its comical title?
The game has you controlling a character that’s employed by a corporation that’s interested in one thing and one thing only: chikkinizing. In the title, there’s a device called a ‘chikkinizer’, which turns anything that enters it into a chicken. Why is this necessary? No idea. Still, you’ll be able to customise your loadout before setting to work, personalising ship colour, hats, and your weapons of choice. These not only change cosmetic attributes, but also your health, regeneration, speed, and weapon damage attributes.
The campaign sees you competing with computer controlled opponents who are all duking it out to score the most points possible by, naturally, chikkinizing objects. Gameplay works like a twin-stick shooter, with the camera nestled conveniently behind your character. Unfortunately, the game’s biggest problem sits with its controls. Flying your hero’s hovering ship is relatively easy, but the shooting is really awkward. As opposed to being a “true” twin-stick shooter, you’ll turn the camera left and right, while pushing up or down on the right-analogue stick to fire backwards and forwards. This never feels especially intuitive or engaging, but rather becomes a chore as you wrestle with the controls. You can switch to using R2 for firepower instead, but it’s still not great.
When hovering around the arenas, you’ll be able to grab objects underneath your hovercraft with a magnetic beam. You’ll get points for picking up and dropping literally any object into the chikkinizer, and you can even humiliate your opponents by taking them down and dropping them into the device. There are items that can be acquired around the environment that can provide assistance, such as instant health, rockets, shields, and more – but you can largely get by without them. Indeed, the standard weapon, which works like the Spread Gun from Contra, is extremely powerful, and actually makes the other artillery appear inferior.
The campaign takes roughly an hour or so to complete, but you can add friends to the mix, so it’s clearly designed around replayability. Unfortunately, there’s no online mode, but we tried it with the PS4’s new Share Play feature, and it definitely works a treat. It’s a shame that the actual levels aren’t anywhere near as successful, as some stages are far too large, and the majority of the action seems to occur around the chikkinizer anyway, lessening the incentive to explore.
There’s a separate free-play multiplayer mode as well, which spans four modes: Chikkin Hunt, Death Match, Team Chikkin Hunt, and Team Death Match. The Chikkin Hunt variant applies the same rules as the main campaign, while Death Match is more or less in line with your typical shooter. To be fair, it can be mildly entertaining, but it quickly becomes repetitive and dull. It’s more like the kind of minigame you’d find in a bigger release – but here, it’s forced to stand on its own.
Even the visuals are disappointing, with smooth performance and vibrant colours, but not a lot else. The production values are reminiscent of the PlayStation 2 era, even though the high-definition polish does propel it beyond the kind of titles that you’d find on the early noughties machine. Unsurprisingly, the audio is also generic an unimaginative, with sound effects having minimal impact on the game. Similarly, the overhyped announcer in the intro seems way too excited about the overall package.
Fluster Cluck feels like little more than a throwaway minigame with outdated production values. This is mildly entertaining when experienced with friends, but it’s not going to keep you interested for much longer than a few minutes. As a result, this game’s name is arguably the best thing about it – and that’s, er, not exactly a glowing endorsement, is it?