outlier

 noun

out·​li·​er | \ ˈau̇t-ˌlī(-ə)r

1: a person or thing that is atypical within a particular group, class, or category

In an eShop filled with retro-styled indie games made by some of the top developers in the world it is hard to stand out. Sure, we all enjoy a nice nostalgia trip from time to time, but sometimes we don’t need the graphics from the 80s and 90s to feel nostalgia in our games.

That is were the developer, Second Order comes in with their latest project, Claybook. Rather than play off the retro gaming nostalgia, Claybook plays off of the nostalgia of being a kid playing with play-doh or clay on your childhood kitchen table. I found the concept intriguing myself and it captivated the mind of my four year old daughter.

Claybook is a unique world made entirely of clay. Every inch of the environment can be shaped and molded. Everything has matter inside it, not just an outer shell. Clay can be liquid or solid, and it can be deformed and destroyed.

In the game, you step into the shoes of brave kids who bring the Claybook to life. Each chapter of the book challenges you with unique obstacles and puzzles. You possess clay blobs and morph them into different shapes to overcome tricky situations. Each shape has its strengths and weaknesses, and some even have special powers.

The game main features include:

– Play through a wide range of challenging books and chapters.

– Compete in the leaderboards.

– Achievements challenges you to use the clay blobs and environment creatively.

– Sandbox mode where you can mess around freely with all of the clay blobs.

– A unique clay simulation and visualization technology, designed for user-generated content and making it easy for players to unleash their creativity.

– An amazing in-game tool that lets you build books and chapters. No technical skills required and share directly inside the game with the Claybook community.

– Discover and play cross-platform community creations directly inside the game.

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Presentation Grade: C

Claybook’s design team certainly didn’t spend much time of this aspect of the game. It’s menu screens and user interface seems to be something out of a iOS game made in 2010. It is serviceable, but doesn’t capture or convey the whimsical spirit that this game brings when you play.

Graphics Grade: A-

The visuals delivered by Claybook are phenomenal. The clay looks darn near photo-realistic. Sure, this game isn’t trying to do a whole lot, but what it delivers is visually stunning. I did experience a few graphically hiccups that showed some clipping of polygons, but this did not impact game-play. Lighting effects and frame rate have to be some of the best I’ve seen on the Switch.

Sound Design Grade: C+

There is nothing memorable about the music and sound effects. I actually found myself replaying the game prior to writing this review to refresh my memory. It is serviceable, but does nothing to add to the experience.

Gameplay Grade: B

The puzzle solving involved in this game is satisfying. It has the portal effect of leaving the player feeling like they came up with a unique way to solve a puzzle. I personally enjoyed the checkpoint race objective mode the most. The controls are a bit off putting a first, but once you get used to the game’s physics it feels right. 4C233329-250F-41E4-BBC9-5D2298AD43C6

Overall Grade: C+

This game is not perfect. The brevity of the game and lack of a variety of mission objectives leaves you wanting more. I wouldn’t say this is necessarily a must own, but for someone looking for a one-of-a-kind experience on the Switch or something that is very accessible for young children you’d have a hard time finding a better fit. This was a tough game to review. On one hand I really enjoyed my time with Claybook, but don’t find myself having the urge to play it again. My four year old enjoys the game tremendously. It is an easy concept to explain to her and their is not a punishment for not solving the puzzles. There are certainly many experiences for $15 far worse than Claybook. Sometimes the outlier deserves a second look.

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by: Dennis Burkett

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