Claybook | Review | PS4

I sat down with my five year old to try this game for the first time. The moment the tutorial loaded and we rolled our “not Playdough” ball around, my son started to giggle. I knew we were going to have an afternoon of silly surprises. The following hours were full of laughter, smiles, and a few frustrations. It’s never a bad time though when a kid can laugh uncontrollably and scream,

“I turned into…banana rocket ship!”

“Look dad! I’m a duck! WAIT! I’m a BUNNY!”

“Why am I a nom nom nom chocolate!?

You just can’t help but laugh when telling a kid to “Go eat that candy bridge with that huge marshmallow!”

The entire game takes place in a child’s play room on tables full of clay. You are a ball, a square, a sphere, or even the aforementioned rocket ship, controlled by yourself, but through a little boy avatar sitting at the edge of play table in the room. It’s a bit creepy as he just stares at the clay object you’re controlling, with no emotions showing on his face. My daughter (who is 3 and loves to watch us play games) said “He looks sad because he’s sad!”

His emotionless, dead eyes still follow every flick of your left stick. Something as simple as a small smirk on his apathetic visage would release the feeling of it being a pre-rendered, storyboard, creepy Pixar character. Seriously though, I’m half expecting to see toys in the background from Sid’s room.

Each level has a set of objectives to complete and when you complete them, a waypoint pops up with your “exit”. After finishing, you are rated with a star based scoring system on how well and how quickly you performed the tasks. Upcoming levels are unlocked using your earned stars in a very similar way that they are in Angry Birds. Locking progression behind this barrier isn’t very encouraging for a young child.

“I already beat the level, why can’t I do the next?” My kid asked me.

Having to tell a 5 year old they “didn’t do it good enough” just seems like bad parenting.

It’s also bad game design.

The progression lock is very steep right off the bat for a game marketed at kids. This could be eased up in a future update.

The control system also isn’t very intuitive. For example, every kid presses “X” or “B” or “A” to try jumping when they first play a game. Having to explain there is no jumping in this game, and that X pauses the game, then allows you to rewind and make copies of your current ball of clay, can be very confusing for a kid…or myself. I found that even if I continued to try and press a non-existent jump button while rolling around.

The camera can really be quite a hassle at times as well. In the video you can see how the camera gets “stuck” if your dough ball shape thing is in a weird location.

These frustrations aside, Claybook is really quite charming, and must be seen in action. Screenshots cannot give this game its due display.

The color palettes are pleasing, the music (although repetitive) creates a whimsically pleasant atmosphere, and a physics engine that’s truly fascinating.

It reminds me of the graphic and physics demos that GPU developers showed off throughout the early 2000’s. Playing with the alluring liquid dynamics creates a temptation to ignore the level objectives, and just carve around in the dough to see what happens.

The creative team at Second Order knew this and had the forethought to put in a sandbox mode that’s available from the start in any level. It’s an absolute delight exploring this game engine, especially in couch co-op mode.

Regardless of the games problems, I’ve found myself going back a few times this week (without my kids) to romp around the clay. It does make me feel like a kid again. I can almost smell the fresh opened plastic container of “clay dough” now.

Played on PS4 Pro (with a 5 and 3 year old “helping“)

Available on PS4, Xbox One, and Steam.

(First Impressions) There are wolves in Fear “The Wolves”

It’s shocking, I know.

There are literally mutated wolves in a new early access battle royale game called “Fear The Wolves”.

I didn’t expect them, at all, when playing the game. One moment I’m alone in a run down house swapping out a handgun magazine for a suppressor in my backpack, next I hear a slight low pitched growl off in the distance in my right ear. I thought nothing of it and kept exploring the dilapidated home in the middle of Chernobyl. Stepping outside into the rain I see a notification on my screen saying adrenaline poisoning in 90 seconds. I walked forward toward the hill in front of me as my vision becomes wobbly. Almost as if I was peering through a pane of water and someone threw a rock into the pool. And there they were, two pitch black wolves with yellow gleaming eyes. I desperately emptied a clip into the first, and fell dead moments later to the 2nd.

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My game play started with a 6 minute wait for enough players to fill my North American server. The total number of players never went above 7 or so. Then I was offered to switch servers. Within 2 seconds of switching to an EU server I was loading in to my first experience.

The game starts just like a round of Fortnite, a loading area with everyone milling around with infinite health – so you can punch AFKers faces to your own morbid delights.

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While auto-loading into the Helicopter to fly across the desolate wasteland, I looked over the impressively large map. It feels bigger than the Fortnite map, but not overwhelmingly so.

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Jumping out, I casually enjoyed the view.

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When landing after parachuting out of the helicopter, I scanned the horizon and was greeted with some lovely god rays coming from the sun, through the trees. I scouted around the first shack I came across and found a pistol. Each game I played, I never felt as if I needed to hunt very long for a weapon. The developer, Vostok Games, has made sure that finding weapons and firefights is a fair balance. There doesn’t seem to be any bullet fall. Recoil is easy to get used to with each weapon as well.

The current game build definitely has its graphical hiccups. Lots of texture pop-ins, frame rate spikes, and screen tearing to name a few. Although none of these issues hindered my enjoyment of the game. It’s week one of an early access game, I’m confident it will only get smoother from here as they optimize the Unreal engine.

Going into this game, I thought it would be another cash grab clone of PUBG.

I was wrong.

It has enough twists to the usual game play mechanics to make me want “just one more round” every time I finished a match. Some elements of FTW are very familiar; loot, guns, backpacks, armor, energy drinks, but with a new twist on the genre.

Namely, radiation, weather and wolves.

Each zone of the map slowly became radiated over time, forcing players to move from section to section to avoid radiation poisoning. Radiation poisoning limits how much health a player permanently has. Once it drops, You can’t go above that health number without radiation medicine, and said medicine seemed to be very limited. Certain elements (like radiation) in this game reminded me of the early days of Rust as well, and that’s a good thing in my book.

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The weather changes throughout your play session, I thought this was a nice touch. Fog limits your viewing distance, rain and the more intense storms severely limit your hearing and sight lines. High winds affect movement speed and bullet drop/distance. Heat keeps your food and water from being as efficient, and the previously mentioned adrenaline infection. Adrenaline infection is your warning that radiation is coming to that part of the map soon, so you gotta move your butt outta there.

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I know there are vehicles in the game, which can help you escape a radiated zone quickly, but I have yet to come across one that wasn’t completely broken or mangled.

Such is life in Fear The Wolves.

I really enjoyed my first experience with the game. It has a lot of room for growth, and good ideas that need to be improved. Although that didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the game. It only made me excited for it’s future. I would enjoy more cosmetic options for my character though (even the female avatars have shaved heads). I’m thrilled to see where the developer takes this over the next few months.

Chernobyl has a lot to offer, but whenever I hear the foreboding howl that makes my skin crawl…

I’m running. 

I Fear The Wolves.

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Review Settings:

Intel Core i7 8700K Processor 3.70GHz;

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 8GB

GDDR5X; 16GB DDR4-3200 RAM;

1TB HDD+250GB SSD