It’s always nice to find something with a truly new and inventive look, and that’s what I found with Clay Jam. The graphics are really surprising and charming to say the least, reminiscent of stop motion claymation. After downloading Clay Jam based solely on looks, I wondered if there was anything to the gameplay. Would this be just another pretty face that relied on nice graphics? Or is the action a match for the animation?
Molding a World
There’s a loose story to Clay Jam, but to be honest, after a few days of playing I couldn’t really remember what it was. The story’s not really important to gameplay, but you’re basically saving the world. A world made of clay. The Bully Beasts have only gone and destroyed everything, as they do, and it’s you’re job to repopulate all the clay monsters and clay scenery in Clay Jam.
You play as Fat Pebble. I know, you’re already hooked, right? Fat Pebble has to smash and smush as many clay beings and as much clay scenery as it can, gathering all that clay up onto its pebble body in a literal snowball effect. At the end of each stage, your clay will be counted up and added to your overall total.
There’s another reason for gathering all that clay as you roll: to knock the Bully Beast chilling at the end of the stage as far as you can. Flick clay-covered Fat Pebble as hard and as fast as you can at the Bully Beast, and the baddie should go flying. The farther it flies, the closer you’ll be to getting a power play.
Power plays are big business in Clay Jam. You can activate power plays on your next turn to make everything really tiny. Fat Pebble will have an easier time scooping up all that clay if everything’s really small and Fat Pebble’s super big.
The Motion of Stop Motion
We haven’t talked motion yet, and getting Fat Pebble around the landscape is both simple and really difficult. Fat Pebble moves when you create little ditches in front of it in the clay ground. Drag your finger to make divots for Fat Pebble to travel along. But make sure your finger stays precisely in front of Fat Pebble! I often get über excited and start trying to swish Fat Pebble this way and that. Fat Pebble doesn’t follow swipes and gestures, though. It follows clay troughs, and if it happens to jump a trough without you noticing, Fat Pebble’s going to be just rolling around, doing its own thing.
That would be okay, if there wasn’t a sea of red clay rushing at Fat Pebble from the bottom of the screen. Because I’m still four on the inside, I see that red clay as a sea of lava coming for me, but it’s really just clay. If you’re not careful, though, and if Fat Pebble isn’t quick, everything will be engulfed in a sea of red clay (lava), and it’s game over.
So you’re past the red clay (lava), and Fat Pebble gathered up a bunch of clay by smushing monsters, and you gave that Bully Beast a right knocking. Now what? Now you spend your clay. Clay is like money, which is sort of macabre if you really think about it, since you gathered the clay from the bodies of the smushed beings you’re ultimately trying to save. I suggest not thinking about it that hard, though.
You can spend clay to buy upgraded monsters to populate Clay Jam. Better monsters give you more clay when you smush them. Fat Pebble will get larger with all that clay, allowing you to give the Bully Beast a bigger push, and you can use all that extra clay to buy more monster upgrades. It’s a beautiful cycle of death smashes and rebirth. And then more smashing.
The second way to spend clay is buy your way out of quests. Clay Jam will present you with quests to fulfill, and some are quite easy, while others seem nigh impossible. If one is just too hard, take a few turns smashing up some monsters with Fat Pebble and then turn all that clay in to check your quest off and get a new one instead.
You’re also going to need clay to buy new levels. It took me awhile to figure that out, and I was getting super bored rolling Fat Pebble around the same landscape. So I’ll let you in on a not-so secret: save up a bunch of clay and then back out to the main menu. From there you can switch to a different “hill,” and buy the upgrade that opens it up. Now Fat Pebble has more places to play, and so do you.
Get Stuck in the Gameplay
The clay effects of Clay Jam are incredibly charming. The gameplay could be terrible and Clay Jam would still be worth a download just to see all the different little monsters wandering around and hear their cries as they’re smashed by Fat Pebble. Fortunately, the gameplay is a lot of fun, if a bit repetitive, so it’s really worth the trouble to see and hear all the fun things that go on in Clay Jam.
After a while, you may start to feel like you’ve played this one before, just as I did. You’re in an absurd little world, rolling around a funny little ball, trying your best to make it bigger while avoiding the obstacles that are still too big to roll up. All the while, you’re repopulating the world. If this all reminds you of Katamari Damacy, the popular console game that has made its way onto iOS, I started to get that feeling, too. It’s a hard connection to shake, but the graphics of Clay Jam really are so very specific, I feel like I can give them a pass. There’s nothing I can think of that both looks and plays like Clay Jam, and the developers deserve props for the design concept alone.
Clay Jam is a lot of fun, though it can get old. I’d recommend opening up those other stages early so you can get some fresh scenery before you get burnt out. There are also in app clay purchases that can make it easier for Fat Pebble to get his job done, and if you like this free game, it’s not a bad idea to let the developers know by downloading some clay.
What really makes Clay Jam a star is the animation of the clay monsters. At a price this nice, I’d recommend this game to just about anyone. It looks so good and just made me so immediately happy when I started playing it, that’s a rare experience I’d like to share.