It took a while for the Xbox Game Preview Program to get running, but we’re constantly seeing more and more titles make use of the open landscape of the preview program for the latter stages of development, allowing gamers to get hands on with the game before it’s fully complete isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m a big fan of seeing how a game develops and with a good development team how player feedback evolves a game that might otherwise have been released in an inferior state.
The latest addition to the Game Preview Program is Claybook, a game like no other, where you control a blob of clay as you set about a dynamic environment to perform specific tasks in the search for stars to unlock further books.
Moving is as simple as tilting your analogue stick in the desired direction and you’re shape of clay will roll, on the first introductory chapter you’ll be shown how to traverse the world and change shapes between a sphere, cube, cylinder or disk, each has their benefits but for general agility you’ll want to use the sphere. RT allows you to carve into clay, pushing towards an object you can force a hole or reshape your surroundings while LT or A give you the power to stamp and rewind, Stamp slaps a block of clay equal to your shape and size in your current position and then you can rewind to an earlier position.
It might sound a little confusing, but when you get to grips with it, you’ll be creating bridges or ramps to reach tough areas, sadly I can’t say easily, because the controls are a little fiddley and if you do master them, you’ll have the camera to contend with, but there’s certainly the groundwork of an impressive system.
The really great thing about Claybook is within the game world, everything is made of clay, so there’s always a way, one challenge tasks you with breaking open a central tank full of liquid clay to fill three surrounding tanks, initially I failed miserably, but being a little more delicate, I carved holes just big enough for a few drops to leave the tank before using this to make a channel leading to the tank, after preparing all three I made the holes in the tank a little bigger and watched as the liquid flowed perfectly to complete the objective.
Such care and attention earned me all three stars, which while not necessary is a sure fire way of opening up a wider range of chapters quickly, with two books and 17 chapters in total, there’s not a massive amount of pre-defined content in place just yet, but this can easily be added to before a full release.
Navigating through the menu’s you’ll also come across create mode, like the little big planet of clay playbooks you can create your own world, there’s a wide range of shapes and objects to choose from and you can inject gameplay mechanics to create your own book full of chapters, there’s a lot of potential for sharing these books with the community or challenges friends to completing your books but currently there’s nothing in place to make that happen.
This brings us to the ongoing potential of Claybook, it’s a very relaxed experience which can be enjoyed by games of all ages, and should the control and camera schemes be improved and a simple and effective way to share and experience community creations then Claybook could well be a must have title for those wanting to introduce others to a more tranquil gaming experience.
Graphically it’s clay, as beautiful and crafted as you can imagine but also as rough, jagged and messy as a 4 year old could make it, like a room full of play dough you’ll soon make even the best looking scenes look like you’ve brought a class of toddlers into the room, but seeing how much an area can change is all part of the fun, there’s a nice touch in the background of a young boy controlling the clay, eyes fixed on you as he moves his C64 style joystick in accordance with your movements.
The clay is well represented with dimples and textures mixed with smooth areas and the shallow trail left by the shape is a constant reminder of how you’re changing the world around you.
The background music has a bright, relaxed theme which sounds like it would be well placed in a happy village setting of an RPG, there’s a few peaks in the music when you reach the desired target for the quest and a reassuring thud when you collide with a piece of the clay scenery, other sounds work well to assist you such as the light hum as you carve into clay or the droplets of water.
Currently it’s quite difficult to justify the price of Claybook as a standalone game, from a gameplay perspective it’s a little rough, content is lacking and if people do spend hours or days creating their own book, there’s currently no way of others using that.
It’s tought to judge a game in progress, so we have to think about the potential and Claybook certainly has plenty of that.