Claybook Review | A Creative, Satisfying Experience for Kids and Adults

What if you could shoo those annoying kids away, sending them to play with some clay and water without worrying about the dreaded mess to clean up afterwards? Well, thankfully Claybook has the solution and implements material properties, soft meshes, and interesting ways of playing with time. You might even be tempted to join them on the game.

As an adult, we can be so caught up in bills and work that we forget what being a child feels like. Sometimes video games that are initially targeted at children can be a gateway for an adult to reminisce those younger times. Scribblenauts for example, teaching children about basic English in a fun setting but can be a fun test for adults. Animal Crossing as a way to teach children about friendships but a peaceful passing of time for the adults. Claybook is another game that entertains both age groups.

From developer Second Order, Claybook puts you in control of a child playing with clay. Your viewpoint, however, is not through the eyes of the child, but instead from a third-person view of the clay shape currently being controlled. As you roll around, you’ll catch glimpses of the towering child staring down at you controlling a joystick that moves in accordance with your movements. It’s pretty unnerving in honesty!

Worlds are known as Books, and each level of that book are described as Chapters. Every chapter requires a certain number of tasks to be completed, which in turn awards you up to three stars depending on your percentage. Some chapters require a certain number of stars to unlock, which results in players striving to do better in previous chapters. However, those who feel too challenged might not desire to jump back to a hard chapter.

The tasks Claybook assigns players can be from simply reaching checkpoints, filling in marked areas with a shape(s), eating chocolate, and even filling containers with water. Although these are no easy task as it isn’t simply rolling around a solid world. As you roll through, the world around you is a soft mesh that reacts to force and weight. Slam into a wall at speed, leave an imprint, roll as a cube and leave large indents on the ground.

At any point, you’re able to freeze your shape in time, clone it, and then rewind to any point in your past movements leaving past versions of yourself scattered about.

I’m not the best at making maps.

Other elements come into play too, such as the colours you’re rolling over affecting the shape, and water causing quicker erosion to the environment. Water can also slow you down to the point it becomes too overwhelming and results in rewinding…which I’ll touch on in a moment.

When starting a chapter, the majority of the time you’re a sphere that can change —at will— into a cube, a cylinder, or a disc. Each shape allows you to overcome certain obstacles a touch easier, or at least make travelling faster or controlled. You’re also able to eat through the world by holding the right trigger, which is handy when dropping to lower levels, trying to flatten steps into a ramp, and eating chocolate.

There are set shapes that can be taken control of in some levels, and once controlled you remain as that shape unless you transform to another nearby shape. These shapes usually have their own special skills activated by the right trigger. The rocket, for example, can propel itself upwards, the magnet can make water stick to it, and a duck can swim! There’s a whole load of other shapes that can be discovered and toyed with.

There’s one limitless feature that stands out in Claybook which allows you to take control of a shapes movement history. At any point, you’re able to freeze your shape in time, clone it, and then rewind to any point in your past movements leaving past versions of yourself scattered about. This can be useful for building bridges, righting wrongs, and simply plugging holes.

It’s worth pointing out though that only whatever you’re controlling is affected. Any changes to the world you make will remain, even if you go back in time. This can lead to paths being eroded too much to pass, or even making so many clones of yourself that you’ve blocked your way, or another players way.

Claybook can be played either as a single-player experience or as a local multiplayer experience. I spent the majority of my time playing with my eldest daughter on split-screen as we worked together to complete the three main Books. Each had four chapters to complete and required us to work together, although some tasks were too tough which led to classic Dad-saves-the-day moments.

Having an extra player works as both a pro and a con. Chapters can be completed quicker for example, and the additional player can distract water jets that target you. However the fact there’s another person going around crushing up thin paths makes it a lot harder to make your way around assigned routes.

Playing alone, however, feels like a therapeutic experience, watching the smooth flowing liquids as you roll through them. Marvelling at the soft mesh trails you leave behind is a satisfying experience, and of course, having the creative freedom to roll about feels great in itself.

For a child though, the focus on tasks is easy to understand, but sometimes too hard to complete due to the finesse required. My daughter managed to do incredibly well but struggled to get the hang of some of the more precise physics. Mainly when trying to build a pyramid and struggling to not damage the other blocks when climbing.

Even I found that hard.

those who feel too challenged might not desire to jump back to a hard chapter.

I’m not the best at making pyramids.

Once the short collection of pre-made books have been completed, Claybook allows you to not only create your own books and chapters but also share them with the community. Admittedly this is still fresh, but a week after launch and the community seems to be donning some love story with titles.

This says to me that the community area is un-moderated at the moment. I did download the odd-looking Books though to see how…explicit they might be and the world was bare. Seemingly it’s being used as a messaging service for that person. Odd! So far the content in the chapters doesn’t seem too mature, and hopefully, it remains that way. 

I wouldn’t want to see this become the next ROBLOX because it really is quite good.

What the hell is going on with the community creations!?

Not only does it act as a teaching method in this way, but as a creative outlet that can spawn hours of fun.

As for building your own Books, you get to design your world how you want from a range of shapes, fluid emitters, checkpoints, and anything you see in the pre-made books. It’s certainly very creative and so fine-tuned that you can control item properties, colours, and placements. It’s fairly easy to control on the console to use the creator features, but it’s obvious this was designed with a PC focus. Either way, it acts as a fun way for children to get introduced to designing a world in a 3D space.

For those that aren’t so keen on completing tasks, you can enter a sandbox mode which gives you total control over the world, allowing you to choose from loads of shapes. You can enter sandbox mode inside chapters too so you can experience other peoples creations without the worries of tasks.

The world feels fun to look at, filled with vibrancy and friendly objects such as cupcakes and flowers. The soft mesh of every object ensures that everything you do has a reaction, and due to the simplicity the game holds a steady FPS.

Textures get a bit blurred when you get too close, and there are issues with the camera getting a bit wacky, but overall it’s a great looking title. Claybook certainly appeals to the fun, bubbly mind of a creative child and even to adults looking for a fun break.

The sounds aren’t as fun, feeling a touch on the bland side of things but there is the music to help perk that downer up. There could have been some more fun sounds implemented, such as exaggerated rocket noises, or fluttering falling sounds, and maybe even dramatic waves. These could help exaggerate what a child imagines, making the fantasy more impactful and magical. Although I’m sure kids playing it would be imagining those sounds for themselves…adults though, we need that additional touch.

The great thing about Claybook is certainly the ability to create worlds with such precision. Not only does it act as a teaching method in this way, but as a creative outlet that can spawn hours of fun. There needs to be more moderation as to what’s getting through onto the community, but the game is really something special.

If you want to find a game that’s entertaining, creative, and fun for your child, as a parent you can’t go wrong with introducing Claybook, but some worlds might be too hard for some. As an adult, this can be a calming escape from the hectic woes of life but can get old quickly, especially with the current lack of community content. However, this is sure to grow as the game grows.

Developer: Second Order
Publisher: Second Order
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4

An Xbox One code was provided to complete this review


A writer, coffee addict, father, and a gaming journalist.