This is a freemium game review, in which we give our impressions immediately after booting a game up, again after three days, and finally after seven days. That's what the strange sub-headings are all about.
We've all played with clay or a clay-like substance at some point in our lives, whether in art lessons while wearing an apron, at the kitchen table on a sheet of paper, or in some less controlled environment where you can make a horrible mess.
Whatever your first experience with that malleable substance was, it's hard to not smile when exploring the clay world of Zynga's newest freemium title Clay Jam.First Impressions
Clay Jam does something that any great game should do: it makes you want to play with the world before you've even started.
The squishy menus crafted from clay are a wonder to navigate as they splurt and pop under your fingers. Its brightly coloured and playful clay creations exude character and charm, and the animations that accompany them are a wonder to behold. It really looks like a labour of love.
In other words, it's not what you probably expected from a company with Zynga's reputation.
It doesn't even get greedy. If you want to, you can make payments from just 99¢ (around 61p) up to the absurd amount of $49.99 (around £31) to buy your way to victory. But if you just invest time in its joyous gameplay you should largely be able to avoid this.
That's because you earn in-game currency by squishing clay monsters, and squishing clay monsters is fun.
Playing as a blue rolling clay pebble, you poke, prod, and sweep your finger to gouge a path across the clay landscape. As you go you'll squish a whole variety of clay monsters, making yourself bigger and faster as you go.
Using the clay you've acquired you can buy more monsters and increase the size of the level until you restore it to its full glory.
It works like a Katamari game: the more clay you take on, the bigger monsters and objects you can absorb. However, you'll want to avoid those that are too big, as you'll lose clay each time you hit them.
At the end of each level you have to defeat an incredibly creative bullymonster by firing your clay-laden pebble into its side to launch it into the distance.
This little section almost becomes a game in itself as you try to best your farthest fling. The cumulative distance that you knock those bullymonsters is added up and transformed into Power Plays, which further alter the gameplay by granting you powers.Day 3: The game that keeps on giving
Three days in and I've only just gotten around to unlocking the second hill (the name the game gives to its worlds) - out of five. I've not been held back by the typical freemium 'energy bars' or lack of credits. I've just become hooked on fully finishing an area before moving onto the next.
Having fully restored the first hill, I decided that I'd finish off the quests presented to me. These range from 'squish 'x' number of 'y' enemies' to 'touch no objects' and 'knock the bullybeast 'x' number of metres'. They're all really simple goals, but they're enough to keep you hooked.
Pleasingly, I've still not had to spend a single penny, as I haven't had any reason to buy clay. Nor have I had to purchase more Power Play balls, as I've accumulated enough from fighting the end of level bullybeast.Day 7: Pay-Doh
All good things come to an end, and with Clay Jam that starts to happen around the third hill.
To the game's credit, there's no playing limit, no energy bars, and no recharging health bars to stall your progression. You just have to invest more time in each level before moving on to the next. The amount you need to acquire through normal gameplay becomes absurdly high, meaning you're likely to spend some real money if you want to reach the end.
Still, it's not compulsory, and in any case nothing is entirely free.
I've spend a week playing Fat Pebble's colourful and creative squish-'em-up Clay Jam, and it's certainly among the best freemium games on the market. It's incredibly hard to put down, and you can get a lot out of it before spending money starts to seem like an attractive option.There you have it, our thoughts on the game. But what do you think about it? Let us know your opinion on Towers & Dungeons in the comments below.