Embark on a Clay adventure that breaks the Mold
Remember Mr. Bill from the popular Saturday Night Live series? (Well, it was popular back then) He was the wild and crazy clay-man of late night television. Then Gumby took the ratings full force not too much later. Now it's time to think... What clay-animation character has swept the nation since? Personally, I can only think of a few clay-animation-shorts that had any effect on me since the "good old days". Don't get me wrong, there have been phenomenal displays of stop-motion animation such as Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "James and the Giant Peach". However, these technical wonders didn't look like clay. I don't know if any clay was used at all.
Well, it's time for a new hero beyond the great terra cotta sky. Klaymen (not Clay-man), of the Neverhood Chronicles by DreamWorks Interactive. The project team started in 1988 as a collection of artworks by Douglas TenNapel. He and his team approached Steven Spielberg, presented the idea, and the rest is history. And if that's not enough, it may help knowing that a good portion of the Neverhood gang worked on Earthworm Jim 1&2.
Born into a Neverhood that may never exist, Klaymen explores a land of terrifying creatures, extraordinary machines and mysterious artifacts. Long ago the king of this world was betrayed by his trusted assistant. You must save the Neverhood by navigating Klaymen through a twisted plot of ancient secrets, witty inventions and monstrous puzzles to defeat your nasty foe(Or at least that's what the box says). Actually, the Neverhood Chronicles is a wonderful game of puzzles and comedy relief. It's not a shooter, or a role-player, or even another version of Myst. It's a fully animated world of clay that's a refreshing change from the seen-it done-it world of gaming.
The controls are so simple, even your ferret can play. All that you use is the mouse. Point to an area, click, and Klaymen walks over to the spot, uses an item, does something funny, or presents a puzzle. There are a few items in the game that you will need as you go along, but they are usually strewn about the game-world in places that will be made obvious to the player. Click on an item, and Klaymen picks it up and stores it away in his chest for later use. When you come across a puzzle or place that requires the item, Klaymen gleefully opens up his chest and pulls out the item and uses it. One of the overall puzzles of the Neverhood Chronicles is for you to find small disks throughout the game-world. There are TV-monitors in various parts of the game that will allow you to view their contents. As you find more disks, the story behind the game is revealed in greater detail.
The graphics in the Neverhood Chronicles are wonderful. Each scene has been carefully animated and colorized to give you a feeling of "what it would be like" to be in an all clay-world. The animation is smooth and seamless and guaranteed to put a grin on your face. Certain puzzles, once solved, reveal a short animated cut-scene which will progress the story a bit further or just make you laugh. The creatures encountered are so well done, and react with Klaymen so well, you'll start to believe the character exists. The music and sound effects in the game are top notch. Kooky tunes, bizarre noises, and loud burps make up a good portion of the game. I can't tell you how many mornings recently I've found myself humming a part of the game's soundtrack.
Overall, the Neverhood Chronicles is a fantastic escape from reality. It's not for those who need to bash some skulls in for fun or the fast-paced gamer types. It is for anyone who loves bizarre comedy and witty puzzles. You cannot die in the Neverhood Chronicles except for one place that clearly states that "You will die if you jump in here"(and it's a pretty funny end too). If you get stuck on a puzzle, you can go online and get a quick tip from their website (neverhood.com). One thing that you should be aware of is that the game does have a few glitches that need to be worked out. At certain times, the game shut off beacause it was angry at my Diamond video card. Apparently, this is because of some of the new video cards and a compatibility issue. However, I'm sure the gang at DreamWorks Interactive will have a solution soon. So check it out. The animation is great, and it's a bundle of laughs for everyone!!!