Platform: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: August 31st, 2018 (PS4, XB1, PC), March 12th, 2019 (Switch)
Developer: Second Order
Publisher: Second Order
The Nintendo Switch has an absolute dearth of indie games, and who would blame developers? The latest Nintendo console has been a haven for these games, and many of them have sold better in their first months on the Switch than their lifetime sales on other consoles or PC. Claybook is another one of those titles making it’s way from previous release to the Switch, and I am here to tell you about how it translates.
Claybook is a whimsical puzzle game involving, well, clay. Each level is built as if a child (a pretty smart one who actually is present while you play), had constructed it, although the detail to some of these levels are quite advanced, like clay water or clay rockets. While it may not work in the present, you can at least make some sense to it.
There are five total “books” with four levels in each. You have different objectives in each that you can accomplish to get a max number of three stars (similar to say, Angry Birds) in order to complete the level. You can finish a level without the max stars, but unlocking the next levels and books depends on how many you have unlocked. The clay levels look incredible, and I applaud Second Order for making beautiful settings for you to play in.
The physics based details are fantastic, if a bit hard to control. You are in charge of a shape of clay, starting with a ball. There are many different shapes, cube, cylinder, wheel, vase-type which shoots water, rocket that actually flies (although not well), rubber duck, and I thought I even saw a U shaped object on one level. There are also some available in larger sizes. The ball is the easiest to control, rolling it around to different areas, the cube can “carve” better with its edges (carving is a function you need to accomplish several objectives), and the cylinder can help with climbing steeper ledges. The movement reminds me of I AM BREAD, another physics based puzzle game. It can be hard.
I love the rewind/stamp feature in Claybook. In many physics based games you just get frustrated from constantly repeating an action and missing because you over or underestimate momentum or something like that. In Claybook at the very start of the tutorial you learn about being able to rewind back to try again, and you can rewind completely back to the start. Another benefit to this? The stamp feature attached to it. You leave behind your clay “self” when you rewind, which can be useful in filling a space, making yourself a sort of bridge, or completing an objective.
As I played through the all of the books, which do not take too terribly long, I noticed the game does not vary much. The objectives are largely the same, go to this point, fill this with water, leave a stamp here, leave this shape in this location. While there are different shapes, the rocket is the the only one that is unique in control. I do not have any specific ideas on level improvements or additional shapes, but after the third book, I really felt like I was just repeating the same thing over and over.
The camera control was also very off, although I understand why. In these levels it is easy to end up in an odd area, leaving you at the mercy of what your camera can do. But the camera can even be a problem in the regular playing space, so the problem is not all on the gameplay itself. While the physics can make your clay hard to control, I wish they did not also seemingly affect the camera.
While I did not investigate it much, Claybook does have a creative mode to it. I am terrible at games like Minecraft, but this is a bit different in you are trying to create more of a level to complete than just build something, even if you can do that. The tools look to be all in place for creators, and I am very happy to see a community area where you can download and play others creations. If you are going to take the time to add this mode, having the ability to share your stuff is a must.
All in all, Claybook is fun. If you like a simple puzzle game but that has the tools available for more than just a gentle romp in clay, it is worth your time. While Claybook does not have the replayability I personally would have liked to see in its single player design, I think kids of all ages will enjoy messing around in the creator mode and other creator’s levels.