Learning arts and crafts seems to be a general part of childhood for many, and one of the first sets of materials you’re given is a container of clay. It’s fun and can be used in a lot of creative ways, but it can also be pretty messy. What about a game that’s all about playing with clay? A game that retains a surprising level of creativity and has interesting ways to play thanks to “video game logic”? That’s where Claybook comes in. It kind of made me feel like a kid again.
Claybook has five “books” that are centered around a theme. Each of these books has four chapters, totaling 20 levels in all. You also have the option of creating and sharing your own levels, as well as downloading custom levels made by other players. For this review, I focused on the 20 official levels.
As I alluded to earlier, Claybook’s gameplay is quite interesting due to how it creatively makes use of the fact that you’re playing with virtual clay. Everything in this game’s world is also made out of clay, which adds an interesting gameplay concept as the environment is destructible, and often you’ll purposefully carve out objects to complete the objectives.
Shape your world
While rolling around, your clay shape will leave dents and bumps in the environment, as well as gather some nicks of its own. It will even absorb the colors of whatever it collides with. This realistic behavior of clay adds to both the immersion and frustration factors, because while this is all cool to watch, it’s really where a bit of Claybook’s challenge comes into play. For instance, some small pathway objects like ladders will be carved away after rolling on them just a few times. Thus, strategy is important and making use of an available rewind feature is crucial to success.
One of my favorite things about the game is the various shapes you control. While you often have the ability to shape-shift between a sphere, cube, cylinder, and disc, there are some special shapes too that have unique abilities. These include shapes like a cannon, which can shoot fluid, and a magnet, which can attract fluid and use it to hover around. Unfortunately, these aren’t available frequently in normal levels; I would’ve loved to have seen these special shapes utilized more. Regardless, the general level design is really well done, and though most aren’t that long, (I got through them all in about three hours.) they’re still charming.
As for the puzzles, seeing that this is a game that’s clearly targeted at younger players, I didn’t find any of them especially challenging. Though, the difficulty does gradually increase as you progress through each book. The objectives often repeat themselves as you progress, but the execution is slightly different. For instance, filling up tanks with fluid is a common puzzle. But one level has you carving out a well in a specific way to achieve this, while another level has you using troughs to guide the fluid into tanks located in different directions. So, while there aren’t that many mechanics, Claybook still manages to take the little that it has and puts a fun spin on them from level to level.
Let the creativity loose
What really brought Claybook together for me is its art style; its stylized visuals offer an interesting blend of realism along with a cartoon aesthetic. Everything is bright, colorful, and has a soft look to it. The realistically moldable shapes and environments are also pleasing to look at. My one gripe is that a single music track plays through each and every one of the levels. I never turned it off, as it is quite soothing and atmospheric, though it can be annoying after a while. On Switch, Claybook targets 30 FPS; dips are occasional, but it manages to hit this target most of the time.
Claybook is a great pick-up-and-play game for the Switch that young players will enjoy. It’s also good for anyone that just wants a relaxing puzzle experience to unwind with.
A review code was provided by the publisher.