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Hands on with Claybook in Xbox Game Preview – Moulding is promising

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During my childhood, many of my weekends were spent at my Grandparents. I remember those times so well as during the week my Mum and Dad were always keen to keep me away from the joys of clay thanks to the huge shaggy rug that covered the living room floor and the worry I’d have it matted within five minutes. Weekends were different though and after enjoying an episode of the clay-based TV program, Morph, there was nothing I enjoyed more than sitting down and creating a horrible mess by mixing up the unique colours of my clay pots.

Nowadays though things are very different, and my days of enjoying the delights of clay are long behind me. At least that’s what I thought until Claybook – one of the most recent additions to the Xbox One Game Preview program – came my way.

So, what is Claybook? Well that’s a good question, however, it’s also one I can’t yet say I’ve fully figured out, especially given the lack of any real content to make it a meaningful or memorable experience. One thing is for sure though… Claybook certainly shows promise, even in its current early stages.

At present Claybook doesn’t have a lot to go on. It’s essentially a sandbox adventure in which the entire play area is made up of clay. There are objectives in place via way of pre-made levels, each of which compose a chapter within a book; the first of which, ‘Into The Woods’ contains 10 chapters/levels, whilst the second, ‘Blob and the Chocolate Factory’ contains a total of 7.

Aside from the pre-made levels, there is an option to mould your own book with a suitable level creator in place. It’s not an original idea and at present there is no way to download or enjoy the creations of others, however if it was to be put in to the final release, there’s no doubt it would go down well.

The levels within the game currently offer enough variety to see you playing, but there’s nothing yet to warrant spending hour upon hour within the world of Claybook.

Although I may sound like I’m being slightly critical, that’s only because Claybook in its current state doesn’t exactly offer much beyond simple A-to-B objectives. However there is one thing that deserves a ton of praise, and that’s the general physics of the game. With every movement made, you can see the indentations within the clay mould on both the clay you are controlling as well as the clay structures within the area and it certainly makes for an impressive destructive playground once you get going.

On top of that, the visuals look incredible. The clay has the ideal soft and ‘squidgy’ texture it should have, while the area surrounding your clay playground – a.k.a. the unplayable area – brings a realistic look and feel with it.

As for the controls, and well, they aren’t overly difficulty to get to grips with, but moving around can be problematic with the clay objects feeling exceptionally heavy and slow, meaning the slightest movement in the wrong direction can see you wobble off-course.

There are multiple shapes you can take the form of in Claybook, each of which are in place for any given objective. One key feature is the time travel-esque rewind feature – this allows you to rewind back to your previous position whilst leaving a copy of your current form in the location you were before you pressed rewind. This means you can then use the clay mould of yourself to climb up to new areas. It’s a bit of a weird feature, but it proves efficient when it needs to so I can’t complain too much right now.

In its present state however there is one thing that would be great to see changed a little, and that’s the horrifying face of the child playing with the clay you are controlling. If we’re to be technical, it’s the child overlooking the table that you actually control. He sits watching over things, moving a joystick around which then moves the clay you are controlling, but no matter what you are doing, the overly focused and somewhat creepy expression he shows never seems to change. It’s certainly weird to say the least, and whilst it doesn’t provide any real difference to the gameplay, it would be nice to at least see a range of emotions rather than the one creepy stare whilst you play.

Claybook certainly has potential, but at the moment, that’s all it is… potential. There is little in the way of content in its current state, however seeing the level creation option utilised properly could see unlimited possibilities open up for this clay playground. With fantastic physics and pleasing visuals, it will be interesting to see how this adventure unfolds in the coming months.