We’ve all played games that have reminded us of experiences with toys in our childhood, whether it’s Micro Machine’s toy-car racing, Army Men’s escapades with plastic soldiers, or even one of the many Transformers games that have hit over the years. They’re the kind of games that bring a big smile to the face of many who got to play these toys in their youth and seeing them implemented into the video game world is undeniably charming – even IF the games themselves don’t always turn out to be that great.
I’m sure every kid played with Play-Doh, right? Well, I sure did and I remember having hours of fun creating my own little worlds (and subsequently having rows when I got clay all over the place). Well, Claybook – the puzzler from Second Order – looks to replicate that experience, with it offering a range of puzzles for the player to solve as well as a robust level creator to craft and share your own creations with the world. It’s JUST like being a kid again…
Claybook sees you playing as a piece of clay that can change shape, with each shape moving or interacting with the environment in a variety of different ways. Most of these shapes are pretty conventional, such as the ball which can roll around easier or the cuboid which can be used to reach higher areas, but you’ll also get access to more specialised shapes such as the magnet, rocket and the cannon – as you can imagine, these are used in more creative ways than just getting around and are fun to use as you work to get through some of the game’s silly puzzles. It all comes together to make for a game that just feels really pleasant to play.
Whilst the pleasantness is nice, the easy-going and nice nature of Claybook can leave it lacking a challenge at times. Whilst there’s a decent variety of tasks to complete such as moving liquid, absorbing objects, carving pathways, or just reaching certain areas, the act of doing so is never particularly challenging. A lot of this comes down to the ‘Rewind’ function which allows you to quickly send your clay shape back on the path it has been through if you get in a tricky situation, all whilst leaving a clay copy of your shape behind. Not only does this mean you literally can’t fail a challenge, but the fact that it leaves a shape behind makes it easy to make all new pathways for yourself – it’s something that’s essential to puzzle-solving on some levels, but there are also times where it can be used to exploit your way past more intricate solutions.
That being said, Claybook is a game that rewards ingenuity, especially with the leaderboards that challenge you to compete with others for the best times. It’ll certainly push you to replay levels, especially if you see yourself slowly creeping up to the top, whilst the versatility of the gameplay and what your clay shapes are capable of makes it easy to shave seconds off your time on repeated attempts. It adds a sense of replayability to the game too, which is nice – especially since there are only twenty relatively short levels to get through in total.
However, playing through these levels is only half of the experience in Claybook: you’re also able to craft your own levels using the game’s flexible creation tool and share them with other players around the world. The creator itself is actually pretty fleshed out, with plenty of different tools in place for you to craft the clay-level of your dreams. Sure, it could be a little fiddly to get to grips with at first, but once you get used to the controls the only thing holding you back is your imagination. I’ve made some particularly clever clay-conundrums that I’m proud of, especially when I saw my family struggle to solve them – here’s hoping the online community has struggled to solve them too…
Of course, you could also take part in other player’s created levels and thanks to the game’s cross-play function, you’re not limited by platform. That doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a substantial amount of levels to find online though and I’ll be the first to admit it’s a lot more limited in its selection when compared to other creator-based titles I’ve played. Still, there’s plenty to get through, whilst the fact you can easily spend hours crafting your own levels means that you’ll get PLENTY of playtime out of Claybook.
One of the things that impressed me the most about the game was just how fantastic it looked, with the world itself genuinely looking like it’s made out of clay. Seeing all of these strange little contraptions and clay obstacles reminded me of the hours I spent playing with Play-Doh as a child (all the way down to mixing the colours together on accident – every child’s nightmare) and it just brought a real feel good vibe to the whole experience. It’s a special looking game.
Whilst attractive though, I’d be remiss not to mention the drop in quality when playing on the Nintendo Switch’s portable mode, with the lower resolution adding a blurry edge to just about everything in the game world. It doesn’t look awful by any means and the aesthetic doesn’t lose its charm, but it is certainly a bit of a downgrade when compared to playing on a big screen. I played through the majority of the game in the portable mode and it’s something you get used to, but I’d implore anyone playing the game to at least try it on their TV once just to see how fantastic it can really look.
Claybook offers a quirky and creative puzzle-solving experience, with the single player campaign offering a fun endeavour to tackle whilst you work up to building your own levels. It’s definitely a game best suited for those who’re more interested in creating though – whilst I enjoyed playing through the game’s twenty levels, they lacked any real challenge and were guilty of feeling like an easy formality to complete at times.
Thankfully, the robust level creator is a great little tool and the potential to craft your own clay-based enigmas is something that could potentially keep you addicted to Claybook for a long time. I’ve already had my family stumped with some of mine and with the ability to share levels with other players around the world there’s the potential there to have an endless choice of levels to play through.
Plus, you can play with clay without the risk of it getting stuck in the carpet – what more could you ask for?
Developer: Second Order
Publisher: Second Order
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC