In my younger childhood years, clay was always something I enjoyed. Whilst my parents used to be keen to keep my little mitts away from it there was still plenty of fun to be had when I found my hands coming into contact with a hidden pot of Play-Doh. Besides that though, the closest I came to enjoying clay was when Morph would get up to some rather mischievous antics that left me wishing for an imagination of my own.
All these years later though, it’s hard to believe that clay is still even a thing children play with, let alone how it could ever really have a place in the gaming world. But it is and now that Claybook has moved from Preview to full game, I got my virtual hands on it to see what the latest putty mess was all about – this time without the worry of destroying the furniture!
Claybook is a sandbox experience in which players must complete various tasks within each level to earn stars that unlock more levels. The stages themselves form parts of a book, with five different ones representing a different world and 20 unique chapters harbouring fully clay-made environments to explore, mould and master.
The tasks set within each level aren’t all too in-depth and usually just consist of players destroying the beautifully crafted environment with their clay shape, or completing set objectives against the clock… such as filling containers with liquid. What it lacks in depth though it makes up for in gameplay.
Your role in all of this is to control the clump of clay – or whatever other element appears throughout the levels, be it a duck, a rocket, a magnet, or more – to master all the in-level challenges. To do this, you’ll need to carve your way through the scenery, changing your shape to adapt to each challenge. The addition of a clever rewind feature allows you to leave a copy of your former self in your previous location should you happen to make a mistake; something which is easily done thanks to every movement affecting the shape and mould of the game world.
Unfortunately though, every challenge you’ll be expected to complete feels rather dull and uninspiring when compared to the perfected game physics and the stunning level design. By the end of the first book, you’ll quickly find things feeling rather lacklustre, and that’s a shame. A big reason for this is simply down to just how incredible the game world is in Claybook. Everything you see and everywhere you can go is crafted perfectly from clay, to the point where the textures offer more realism than we often see from most triple-A experiences.
Another disappointment is just how few levels there actually are, and whilst 20 may sound like a rather decent amount for any game, the fact that they are all only a few minutes long means the game is over and done in just a few short hours. That said, fortunately, Claybook also comes with a full level creation suite that allows players to create their own unique levels before sharing them with the community so others can enjoy them too. If anything, that allows you to spend a bit more time perfecting your clay play.
Creating a level is no simple task though and with no tutorial to guide players, it comes across as a type of ‘learn as you play’ experience, which for some will feel incredibly daunting given the huge potential to create stunning levels.
Should you just wish to enjoy the creations of others then that is of course a possibility and a vast amount of my time has been spent trawling the best levels created. This really extends the game time for what would otherwise be a relatively short experience. Community Creations also does a fantastic job of showcasing just what potential is available, with the levels created even rivalling the quality of those added in by the developers… something which is no easy feat.
Sadly though, even with the additional content the Community Creations bring, Claybook still feels like a game lacking something special, mainly thanks to the neglect of any truly meaningful things to do in this magnificent game world. Whilst the game has certainly been polished up nicely since its days in the Xbox Game Preview program, there isn’t an awful lot that has been added to make it a more robust experience.
I don’t like to end on a negative though and there is one other positive aspect of Claybook that deserves a mention, and that is the soundtrack. It would be quite easy to go about your business without ever really paying attention to it but those who listen in on the sweet sounds will find that it compliments play nicely, with a tranquil soothing of piano keys serenading the clay-based adventure.
If you’re looking for an easy going game to sit through on a quiet evening then Claybook is certainly no bad way to go, but for the price it’s hard to recommend it due to the lack of content that is currently in place. Should more levels be added later on, or you fancy yourself as a ‘creative’ then there is every reason to get involved, but if you want to just sit back and enjoy then there isn’t enough to keep you engaged for long.
Claybook holds a strong foundation for a positive gaming experience, but at present it still resembles more of the game preview feel than that of a fully complete experience.