Clay Jam (Free) is a game about clay. I'm really not sure what genre you'd classify the game under, but it's different, quirky, and most importantly, fun. There are times when the controls seem a bit unresponsive and some of the challenges definitely live up to the concept of a challenge, yet the overall demeanor of the game is lighthearted and whacky, and every gamer needs a selection or two like it to balance out the "serious" nature that so many modern games take. Games are supposed to help you escape from the real world, and Clay Jam does that quite well.
Clay Jam has been destroyed by some evil creatures, and as a simple ball of clay it is up to you to rebuild the hills and put Clay Jam back to its former glory. In order to accomplish this, you must bring back the hills, one inhabitant and dwelling at a time, earning clay to do so by rolling over the inhabitants that already exist on a given hill. When you start out on a run, you can only crush the smallest creatures, but as you build yourself up with the clay from your victims you can start taking out bigger creatures and even some dwellings.
If you make it to the end of the run, you'll get a chance to knock that hill's main adversary around just a bit. You do need to be cautious, because all the time you're travelling, there's an avalanche of clay coming behind you, and if it catches up the run's over with no reward. Each hill has a certain number of challenges, and you can say a hill is officially complete when you’ve rebuilt all its inhabitants and completed all the quests. Once you’ve completed a run, you also have the option of building new characters and dwellings if there are any left for the hill you’re on and if you have enough spare clay. I suggest building new things as soon as you can, because the more you have to squash the more clay you can collect again.
There is also an endless mode on each hill where all creatures are fair game right from the beginning. In this mode you cannot roll over dwellings, however. Creatures come in three different colors, and in endless mode, if you roll over one of each color in a row you get additional bonuses. The best part is that at the end of a run in endless mode you get to keep the clay you’ve collected, since endless mode always ends with you getting overrun by the clay avalanche.
To control your ball of clay, you simply drag tracks in the ground where you want the ball to go. There are times where it doesn’t seem to turn quite as quickly as you’d expect, but I suppose that’s just a combination of impatience on my part and the fact that you are dealing with clay—albeit in a simulated sense. The biggest real problem with the game is the challenges. I’m glad there’s a decent variety of them, and I’m glad they aren’t so easy that you’ll earn them all on the first try, but sometimes they just become tedious. For example, if you have a challenge where you can only crush blue monsters, you’re missing two thirds of your potential targets. In a game where you can roll over just about anything, I like to roll over just about anything!
While the game as a whole is entertaining, the standout feature has to be the graphics. Clay visuals, whether derived from real clay or just really well simulated, have a certain look that just can’t be beat. I’m pretty sure everything was done with real clay models in Clay Jam. There’s also the fact that the character designs are just silly and fun. The sound effects help add character to some really colorful creatures. Each one has their own special noise, and it also clues you in on what’s coming next. The music is nice for background music, but is ultimately forgettable.
Clay Jam is a fun game. It might take a bit to get into because you’ll have to slowly build that first hill, but once you get the hang of things you’ll be rolling and squashing with the best of them. Some of the challenges get a bit tedious, and you will get frustrated at times when the ball doesn’t turn the way you want it. In the end, though, there’s plenty to like about this game and more than enough to keep you busy. Plus, it’s clean and basically violence free, so you can share it with your kids as well. You can’t go wrong with that.
Overall Score: 9/10