ClayFighter 63⅓

a game by Interplay Productions, and Interplay Entertainment Corp.

Platform: Nintendo 64Nintendo 64

Genre: Action

See also:Clay Fighter Games, ClayFighter Games

Way back in 1987, I had an interview for a job on seminal games mag Zzap! 64. As well as the usual 'tell us about yourself' guff, I also had to review a game on the spot. Jazza Rignall and со had obviously been saving one up for me - I can't remember the name of the game (it was a Scramble clone), but what I do remember was that it was excruciatingly bad, one of the worst games I'd ever played. And I'd played a lot. I duly pecked out a review on the office Amstrad that was so scathing the keyboard curled up at the corners. This was obviously what they were looking for, as I was offered a job on the spot. In the end I decided not to take it, but a decade later here I am reviewing videogames for a living anyway. Fate, huh?

So what has this pathetic attempt to secure my place in the pantheon of games journalism got to do with anything? Not much, apart from this... I've finally found a game that is worse than the hideous specimen I had to review ten years ago. The really sad thing is that it's on the N64.

Clayfighter 63 1/3 (called just Clayfighter from now on - do you know how much of a pain it is to type fractions?) was due to be reviewed last issue; we had pages allocated and a cartridge scheduled to arrive on a set date. When the cartridge failed to materialise, a call to Interplay to find out what was going on got a response along the lines of, "Um, we can't send it out yet, it's, er... not ready. That's it, not ready." Since it was now only a couple of days before the American version was meant to go on sale, this seemed a tad suspicious...

Morph Must Die!

Clayfighter has the usual inane story bringing the fighters together. The evil Doctor Kiln has set up a lab on the island of Klaymodo, where he is using a mutagen from a meteor called 'Bessie' to... ah, to hell with it, it's even more stupid than War Gods' origin story. Believe me, it's embarrassing even to read, so there's no way I'm going to waste expensive ink typing it out again. Basically, everybody fights each other for no good reason.

The first part of the game's name comes from the fact that the characters are all made out of clay, like Wallace and Gromit without the good looks. (The second part is an obvious Naked Gun-style riff on the usual '64' suffix, which is funny for exactly no seconds.) A more unappealing lot is hard to imagine - it's almost as if the designers made the decision to create the ugliest, least charismatic, most repellent fighters they could imagine. Even 'star' characters like Earthworm )im, who was never exactly a pin-up to begin with, are singularly gross and annoying, so you can imagine what Boogerman is like.

The characters themselves have actually been created as claymation puppets, animated frame-by-frame and digitised. Unfortunately, they move like claymation puppets as well. Not only are the boys so jerky that they're making crank phone calls - they make Ray Harryhausen's old films look as smooth as Jurassic Park - but they're blurred in a way that made me long for the clarity of Hexen.

A tragic waste of an opportunity here is that the backgrounds for each arena are really rather good, certainly on a par with those of Killer Instinct Gold. A bit of imagination has been put into them, with nice touches like levitating tables in the haunted house or presents chugging along conveyor belts in Santa's toy factory. Unfortunately, they've then had a load of crap fuzzy sprites slapped over them. It's almost as if the people doing the backgrounds and the characters were working on entirely different games!

Sound As A (Dog) Pound

Clayfighter's sound deserves a special mention. It is truly horrible. The music is all right and fairly inoffensive, but the sound effects... gyaah! Every character has a battery of samples to accompany their every move, and I mean every move. Just trying to get a couple of punches off results in a cacophony of stupid and annoying 'comedy' voices, the likes of which have not been heard since Steve Wright left Radio One. I was horrified to discover that one of the people providing these noises is Dan Castellaneta, better known to millions as the voice of Homer J Simpson. I... feel... violated. Say it ain't so, Homer!

Because every action has its own sample, doing moves quickly cuts I them off partway through, giving a kind of Jive Bunny effect. "Get 'em little/get 'em little/get 'em little buddy!" Those moves which don't have a vocal accompaniment give no respite, as the alternative is a bunch of repetitive honking, squishing and farting noises straight from the Three Stooges sound effects library. Unless you play with the volume of your TV turned right down, a couple of minutes of this racket (as well as the spectacularly irksome announcer, who sounds like Greg Proops with a major sinus problem) will leave you with facial tics and a pathological hatred of Plasticene.

Nick Park, This Is All Your Fault

These failings wouldn't necessarily be terminal if Clayfighter at least played well. The [original Super NES Clayfighter game]((/games/clayfighter/) was actually not bad - it was no Street Fighter, admittedly, but it was playable for a while. Its 64-bit descendant, unfortunately, can't even manage that. Each character (a fairly meagre 12 in all - at least three of the characters shown in previews have been cut out) only has a small number of moves, presumably due to the amount of memory needed to store the animation frames, and the controls are hideously unresponsive.

The animation of the characters is so slow that after just a couple of moves, what you're doing with the controls and what's happening on screen are completely out of sync. It's like watching a 1970s kung-fu movie. If you hammer randomly at the buttons - probably as good a way as any of playing, as there is no scope whatsoever for even the vaguest kind of tactics - and then let go of them entirely, your fighter will carry on about his business unchecked for another second or so! Instant response is the key to any fighting game, but Clayfighter is so spectacularly inept in this area that it actually becomes funny. Ironically, this is the only laugh you'll get from the game.

Well, that's not strictly true. The first time you see and hear the characters doing their weird attacks and making silly noises, it might raise a smirk, and any Beavises out there will probably laugh out loud. (Roy did, anyway!) That's the first time, at least. The second time, the comedy value drops like an anvil, and by the third time your smiling muscles are already starting to atrophy through lack of use.

How did Interplay get everything so horribly wrong? The manual for the game has a list of everybody who worked on the game, at least 50 people - didn't any of them actually look at what they were doing and say, "You know, guys, this game sucks! Maybe we should try to fix it..."? Even by the N64's low standard of beat-'em-ups Clayfighter is appalling, and as the aim of the game was to spoof much better fighting games, you would have thought that they'd at least try to mimic the playability as well. Mortal Kombat Trilogy suddenly seems tike a work of genius worthy of Shigeru Miyamoto himself.

Clayfighter will stand as an object lesson for years to come of how not to program a beat-'em-up. With its horrible graphics, slow and clumsy gameplay, infuriating sound, dire controls and repulsive characters, to say nothing of the fact that varying the difficulty level makes absolutely no difference to the game, it is without question the worst game on the N64, and quite possibly the worst game of the decade. When you realise that other contenders for this title include Speed Racer on the Super NES, Atari ST Pit-Fighter or Mega Drive Cliffhanger, you should be left shaking in your shoes. How is it possible to make a game that is so utterly wrong in every way?

If you have relatives who might be buying you an N64 game for Christmas, I implore to make sure that they keep the receipt. If Clayfighter appears in your Christmas stocking, you'll be needing it.

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ClayFighter 63⅓ Downloads

Nintendo 64 ClayFighter 63⅓ download

Worst game on the N64 without a doubt, and a strong contender for worst game of the decade. Aside from some mildly imaginative 3-D backgrounds, there isn't a single thing about this game that rises above the level of 'abysmal'. Fuzzy, jerky graphics, inept and clumsy controls and the most annoying sound effects since the last Jim Carrey film make this a true curler.

reggie posted a review

Now about three-quarters complete, UNI Interplay's N64 Clay Fighter outing continues in a traditionally tongue-in-cheek fashion, with this threequel now carrying the smile-inducing weight of a Naked-Gun-style '63 1/3' monicker.

The game features upwards of twelve characters, including new additions like Lady Liberty, HoboCop, Sumo Santa and Boogerman (who you may remember starred in a game of his own on the SNES), as well as better known members of the family such as Mr Frost, The Blob, Kangoo and Hoppy the Battle Bunny.

Keeping with the 2D action hasn't prevented the game's developers from creating some stunning backdrops -- which, in some instances, include breakable surroundings -- as well as some gloriously fluid characters who are, once again, given a high-quality stop-motion sheen.

New features include the characters performing a particular routine every time an opponent hits them in a designated area. For example, strike HoboCop in his rounded ass and he'll turn to the camera and moon. (Er... please. -- Ed) Also, every time a player is struck, copious amounts of clay spurt forth, providing a plasticine alternative to Mortal Kombat's bloodbath.

Quite whether this new, improved 64-bit version will gain the series some critical credibility (especially after the middling 70%-ers that were the SNES coupling) is a major question. However, these screenshots, along with excited words from Interplay, would suggest that another humorous take on the beat-'em up might be just what the doctor ordered.

reggie posted a review

Absolutely the worst game on the N64! There isn't a single good thing about this game - if you see it, alert the authorities!

reggie posted a review

Possibly the worst game on the N64. Except, perhaps, for a game where you have red hot needles shoved into your eyes.

When, at the beginning of a fight, the highly amusing commentator shouts. "Let's get ready fo crumble!", switch off your machine.

reggie posted a review

"Let's Get Ready to Crumble!" Stand back, 'cause when the punches start flying, clay bits are gonna go everywhere! Twelve freaky clay dudes are pumped and ready to battle it out for your enjoyment in Clay Fighter 63 1/3, "the ultimate spoof of fighting games."

This game purposely pokes fun at games like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and Tekken, but its fighting style is masterfully crafted with an interesting twist you've got to see to believe. The awesome action and humorous concept of Clay Fighter 63 1/3 is great, but the choppy 2.5D graphics and slow transitions will seriously hurt this title's overall appeal.

Gameplay

Clay Fighter 63 1/3, developed and published by Interplay, is a one- or two-player game consisting of 12 wacky animated clay characters, some "bad" natured and some "good" (depending on their story), that battle each other on a giant mountain island called Klaymodo. On this island are a dozen different interactive 3D environments, all custom tailored to each character, serving as the battlegrounds for this all-out clay frenzy.

Choose a character such as Bonker the Clown, Kung Pow, or IckyBod Clay and battle your opponent with punches, kicks, throws, jumps, slams, holds, projectiles, and other crazy combinations and special moves, with individual fighting styles for each character.

Clay Fighter 63 1/3 (CF63.3 for short) is a sequel to the relatively popular original Clay Fighter game released for the Super Nintendo several years ago. Gone from the players list are some old clay favorites, like my all-time favorite Blue Suede Goo ("Hey Watch the Hair, Man!"), but there are some returning veterans, like Blob, Taffy and Bad Mr. Frosty. The thing that makes these clay characters so cool is their awesome morphing ability. Clay Fighter's Morphing Engine allows for some truly bizarre moves; when Blob is fighting, he transforms from a bouncing pile of goo into a jackhammer, a plane, a cannon, a block, a saw blade, a horse's hind legs, a sledgehammer, a boxing glove, and so much more.

After you select a difficulty level ranging from Easy, Normal, Whoa!, or Dude! and adjust the other options (volume, music, time limit, etc.), choose a claymate and your journey around the island begins. As you enter each tournament field, the camera descends like a bird over the battlefield from a distance, and the clay opponents drop into position with a splat. The announcer says "Fight!", and with every punishing blow, little bits of funny-shaped clay scatter all around (the shapes depend on the character; Taffy splatters look like flying lollipops and gumballs for instance). If you successfully deplete your opponent's life-meter, you move on in the tournament to the next opponent, until finally you get to battle one of the bosses, either the mad scientist Dr. Kiln, the disgusting Sumo Santa, or Boogerman.

The environments are interactive, meaning you can get kicked or thrown through a wall and the fighting will continue in the next room. And almost anything can happen during a clay fight; just when you think you've seen everything, your opponent will surprise you with a powerful move that'll leave your clay friend shapeless and totally dazed.

While pummeling each other with special moves, the characters in Clay Fighter shout out unique colorful phrases like "Tumblin' Worm!", "Bunny Bash!", "Fly The Voodoo Skies!", "Cluck You!", "Pu-Pu Platter!", and too many more to try and list here. Also whenever a character strikes several quick hits in a row, the hit count is shown at the top of the screen along with a comment based on the strength of the combo. It's funny because this way you are rewarded for your skill but also insulted if your combo is less than fantastic. Some combos are labeled Itty Bitty Combo, Little Girlie Combo or Cheesy Combo, and others, going up above ten hits, might say "That's a Queen Combo!" or even "Triple Brown Betty Combo!". One time I was fighting against Houngan (the voodoo guy) and I was the unfortunate recipient of an amazing 32 hit combo! I think the announcer shouted "Ohhh, I Love It!!!" (I was so dizzy, I don't really remember...)

The dialogue is by far the most hilarious aspect of CF63.3. Interplay has enlisted several famous voice talents that have contributed to this game; Dan Castellaneta, best known as the voice of Homer Simpson, provides the voices of the two superhero clay characters Earthworm Jim and Boogerman, giving each of them a distinctively different dialogue. Michael Buffer also lent his voice talents to this game as the fight announcer, a job he actually enjoys in real life. Buffer is the man famous for the phrase "Let's Get Ready to Rumble!", which you may have heard him say at the start of a major sporting event. Buffer also gives colorful commentary throughout each fight -- after a big combo hit you might hear him comment "That was BRILLIANT!" or "Ohhh, that's gonna leave a MARK!"

Side Note: More Freedom of Speech -- Good news for game developers: a company called Factor 5 has just created a new word compression routine for programming that will increase the amount of speech that can fit onto a game by five times the current ratio. Nintendo and the other third-party developers have already licensed this compression routine, which allows up to 14 minutes of continuous speech per megabyte of storage space. This means that blowing the size budget on too much dialogue shouldn't be a worry for developers anymore.

Side Note #2: Look for a limited edition release from Interplay called Clay Fighter: Sculptor's Cut, available as a BLOCKBUSTER VIDEO exclusive RENTAL ONLY starting in April. There are four additional characters, at least one more hidden character, and they've "improved the game" with better camera angles, music and environments. The program size has increased by 25% to include the new animation and sound. The new claymates are named Lockjaw Pooch, Lady Liberty, High Five and The Zappa Yow-Yow Boyz. As of now there is no word on whether this version will ever be available to purchase.

Clay Fighter 63 1/3's controls are basically the same as most fighting games: 3 buttons for punch and 3 for kick (Brutal, Fair and Wobbly), and you use either the control pad or analog stick for movement. The Z button (or trigger) is also a useful tool for strafing, allowing you to maneuver around the entire arena, although usually counter-clockwise and backwards. I sometimes prefer the control pad for movement instead of the analog stick, but then it's tough to reach the Z button. It just helps to switch to the old plus pad sometimes for those tougher combo moves.

This game doesn't require a Memory Pak, and you can't use a Rumble Pak, but that will save you from spending a fortune on batteries; there are so many hits in this game that a Rumble Pak would probably shake non-stop!

The music in Clay Fighter is an interesting mix, with a different track for each of the 12 battlegrounds. From slow, eerie chants to whimsy circus-pipes, the music really adds a nice touch to the Clay Fighter experience.

Graphics

Interplay named this Nintendo 64 game Clay Fighter "63 1/3" instead of the obvious choice of Clay Fighter"64," which I believe represents two main things: 1) a poke at how humorous this game is intending to be, and 2) that this title is not a true 3D game worthy of the 64-bit tag. The developers used 3D polygon animation for the background environments, but the 2.5D sprite-based character animation is where Clay Fighter would fail to ever become a classic N64 title. The breakaway transition from one room to the next is choppy and slow, basically interrupting the flow of a really good fight.

One good feature is the free-floating camera view, which is fluid and flexible, more like that of a hovering bird instead of a motionless turtle. When you move farther away from your opponent, the camera falls up and back to get a better overall view of both fighters.

The best thing about Clay Fighter is that it offers gamers an alternative fighting experience other than the blood-drenched massacre stylings of some game titles. They've replaced the splattered blood and guts with little flying bits of clay, so you still get the satisfaction of power but in a fun and innovative way.

CF63.3 as a whole is slightly better than mediocre, especially when you compare it to other Nintendo 64 titles, but what can I say, it's FUN! It's like a comic book or a cartoon, the anti-reality excitement that most gamers are looking for. Realistic simulator games like F1 Pole Position can get boring very fast; racing go-karts in Diddy Kong Racing can be infinitely more exciting. The best thing about comics, cartoons, and computer animation is their ability to take us beyond our reality to places that could probably never exist, with colorful characters, unbelievable landscapes and fantastic story lines. Throw in some combo-punches and body slams and you've got a great big world of fun, baybee!

Bottom Line

This is a long-awaited sequel, but something tells me they should've waited even longer. As a one-player game, Clay Fighter feels bloated, the computer is too easily defeated and the cool phrases are wasted when your friends aren't around. But as for two-player action, CF63.3 is great for hours of laughs and intense, competitive fun.

If you're a hardcore fighting game fan, you may not appreciate this light-hearted humorous spoof of the fighting genre. But if this is true, you should still check it out; who better to understand the jokes they're trying to make? Rent it or buy it, either way it's definitely worth a try if you want to challenge a friend to a good grudge match.

It's due to hit the Sony PlayStation as Clay Fighter Extreme in February, but don't expect too may improvements with the different system.

PROS: Comedic voice talents; bizarre 3D environments; a good party game

CONS: 2.5D character animation; slow transitions; too easy to win in one-player mode

reggie posted a review
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