Fluster Cluck

Platform(s): PlayStation 4
Genre: Shoot-'Em-Up
Publisher: Loot Interactive
Developer: Loot Interactive
Release Date: Oct. 21, 2014

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PS4 Review - 'Fluster Cluck'

by Brian Dumlao on Jan. 7, 2015 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Fluster Cluck is a frenetic dual-stick shooter with a cartoony art style. The fast-paced four-player battles are pandemonium. In single-player mode, players select one of six different employees and help him or her ascend the ranks by "chikkinizing" everything.

The last few years have seen a resurgence in local multiplayer games, and the PlayStation 4 seems to be a big proponent of such titles. For a feature that was practically a staple two console generations ago, the ability for players to converge in one spot for some co-op or competitive play is refreshing to those who grew up in the era of GoldenEye, Halo and Mario Party. Fluster Cluck is the latest local multiplayer game on the PS4, but it's a last resort kind of title.

In Fluster Cluck, the player is an employee of the largest chicken distribution company in the universe. To supply everyone with poultry, your firm has come up with a device that turns just about anything into a tasty, flightless bird. Your job is to go around the small arenas and harvest as many items as possible before fellow employees do the same.

The opening movie serves as the game's setup and tutorial. Since many players will skip the opening video, especially when they hear the obnoxious narrator, placing all of the instructions in this one spot probably wasn't the wisest move. There's also no rundown of the controls, so unless you have the foresight to view them from the options screen or get lucky and have a loading screen that displays them, prepare to fumble around until you understand what everything does.

The game has a few modes, but the emphasis is on the local multiplayer. Up to four players, either in solo or team variations, can participate in two different modes. In standard match, players go around the level and pick up the necessary ingredients to make chicken. Depending on the level theme, those ingredients can range from cows to treasure chests to zombies. Combat also plays a big part, as players try to shoot each other to slow their progress. In addition to adding special items like turrets and missiles to increase the carnage, players can also convert the bodies of fallen competitors into poultry. Should you tire of racing around and collecting items, you can also play a deathmatch variation, which takes away ingredients and focuses on killing.

The campaign mode is straightforward, if a bit deceptive. Instead of providing the player with a narrative, the game places the player in standard arenas against AI opponents with no variation. The player must always get first place in a match before progressing to the next stage. After getting through a battery of levels, the game ends without any pomp or celebration for winning.

From the outset, players will notice that Fluster Cluck has a litany of problems, the least of which is the fact that online multiplayer doesn't exist. (This can be a pain point for those who don't have many local friends.) The title controls like a twin-stick shooter but is presented in a third-person perspective, thus limiting the freedom with the controls. You'll fire many shots and hope that you blindly hit something. The right analog stick also controls movement, so firing anywhere but straight causes you to turn the camera while firing.

Speaking of controls, piloting the craft feels both slow and floaty. There's no real precision when moving, so you're going to fall off ledges, glide over the ingredients you're trying to pick up, or land on the transformer. The game tries to balance this by having your craft move slowly, but that also makes things feel sluggish. When you know that a fallen foe is far from the transformation spot or when you realize you have very little time left on the clock, the rush of trying to beat the clock is absent since you know that moving there is a waste of time.

The scoring system feels rather arbitrary. There are times when a kill can get you a decent amount of points, and there are times when those same kills net you nothing. The same can be said for the deliveries you make, as the same items can vary wildly in the amount of awarded points. There are also a bunch of symbols that appear in your HUD that don't seem to mean much. The developers explained some things in the manual, which is only accessible outside of the game. Something so important shouldn't be locked away in such an obscure location.

Map design is lacking as far as imagination is concerned. Almost all are rather small and take on designs from other games, like Mario Party's minigames but with less imaginative work since none of the places look interesting. The presence of ramps is fine, but it disables the effectiveness of weaponry. The buildings in the zombie-themed levels hurt the game more, as their collision makes the maneuvering feel dodgy. The placement of ingredients is also suspect; what starts off as an even spread quickly turns into areas getting more densely populated than others. It also doesn't help that the spawn points are few and far between, so camping them is a legitimate strategy, even though the point penalty doesn't reflect how bad it is.

Perhaps the game's most notable flaw possesses is the overt reliance on grinding. Each played match gives you XP, which levels you up and gives you new items for your alien pilot. While the game may tell you that you unlocked something new, you have to back out all the way to the main menu and select your mode again before you can see what's unlocked. This ruins the game's flow between matches. Then the title automatically gives you the newly unlocked item, but you have to figure out things on your own.

What's surprising is that most of the unlocked items don't seem to have much effect on your player. Despite the stats listed next to each hat and craft type, none feel more powerful in their specified areas when compared to one another. Worse is the fact that some of the new weapons feel much weaker than your default, so experimentation actually punishes you instead of rewards you.

Then there are the different milestones you need to hit. Aside from the default level, there are game milestones related to reaching level 20 and 50 in the campaign mode. The problem is that gaining those levels means grinding match after match to earn the required XP. That XP comes from both multiplayer and campaign, so there's a bit of a reprieve, but replaying the same stages over and over again before hitting that first major milestone can drag things out as far as giving the player a sense of enjoyment from the title.

Graphically, Fluster Cluck is far below what is expected for this console generation, indie or not. While bright colors are appreciated, the environment modeling makes things seem a bit flat. The ground is overly shiny in places, and just about every object is so angular that you'd mistake this for a PSone title or a very early PS2 title with a resolution bump. More perplexing is that the game exhibits slowdown when too many particles are on-screen. Theoretically, this shouldn't happen on such a powerful console. The jittery movement also rears its head when you're placed in narrow caverns and when you're turning on uneven terrain.

The music is forgettable. Despite only one track playing in each environment regardless of differences in stage configuration, the tracks are benign enough to be ignored. Beyond the needlessly overactive and loud voice in the cut scenes, no other voices are heard. This can be a blessing since annoying voices are kept to a minimum, but on the other hand, it means that some of the areas where vocal announcements can be beneficial, such as rounds beginning and ending, are now silent. Speaking of silence, you'll get that quite often since at least half of the expected sound effects are absent. Go through warp pipes and use the tractor beam on an object, but the accompanying audio doesn't have any punch. Events like the disappearance of enemy bodies that you're carrying are unpleasant surprises, since there's no sound warning you of their impending disappearance. Playing this game will make you realize how important audio effects are, and their absence here makes the game much weaker.

From top to bottom, Fluster Cluck is dreadful. The gameplay is basic, but the uninspired map designs, weak weaponry, and confusing scoring system ruin the fun. The campaign feels like it drags along despite being so short, but the dependence on grinding to open up more levels is infuriating. Multiplayer makes things a little better, but the paltry map selection and pittance of modes saps away that fun rather quickly. The lack of online multiplayer cripples the potential audience even more. Even the presentation is weak enough to give the player the impression that this title was done as quickly as possible with no regard for quality. As it stands, Fluster Cluck is up (down?) there with Basement Crawl as one of the worst multiplayer console experiences to date. There is absolutely no reason to grab this one, especially at its rather high price point.

Score: 3.0/10

More articles about Fluster Cluck
blog comments powered by Disqus