Approximate Release Date: April 26, 1993
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: Interplay Entertainment
Large levels and the ability to swap between different animals to play as helps Claymates feel fresher than it would otherwise.
Claymates‘ entire raison d’être is the animal swapping, and it works well if you don’t think about it too much. You play as Clayton, a boy-turned-ball who can change into different critters by touching colored clay. A gray ball turns him into a fast-moving rat, a red ball lets you control a cat that can climb some walls, a green ball unlocks a duck that can kind of fly, and so on. Each controls very differently, ranging from the sticky default blue ball to the absurdly touchy rat. The rat might be the fastest character in a video game from this era. Too bad he’s not blue and a hedgehog, because then he might still be in games today!
The different qualities of the animals play into exploring the huge levels. Most stages have a critical path that get you from the beginning to the end with minimal effort. There are three shapes scattered throughout the level, which unlock chests full of gems to collect. The more gems you get, the more likely you are to play a bonus level for extra lives. To get everything in Claymates‘ levels you’ll need to switch between the animals and use them to get to hidden or out-of-the-way areas.
But why would you want to do those things? Claymates is easy enough that trying to find 100% of the collectibles is a waste of time. It’s frustrating to stumble upon a chest you can’t unlock because you didn’t find the golden circle earlier. However, it’s a frustration that is novel to most Super Nintendo platformers, which are completely linear and don’t offer this much in exploration. I mean, the levels are so large that the game gives you a ten-minute timer!
Claymates is mostly worth checking out because it is surprisingly ambitious in weird ways while also being equally safe. You can play the game as an easy, average platformer or as a difficult collect-a-thon. Claymates feels like a game close to being something special but doesn’t go far enough.