"Clayfighter" "Clayfighter"

Way back in the 1990s, as violent fighting games like Mortal Kombat were enthralling kids and worrying their parents, one series tried to buck the trend. With their roster of goofy circus-freak characters, Clayfighter and its sequels poked fun at the seriousness of the genre.

Key to the games’ wacky style was their choice of animation medium: the characters were modeled with clay, photographs of which were then animated in stop motion. This approach, while not unique in gaming, is far less common than animation based on 2d pixels or cg rigging. Did it work for Clayfighter? That’s the question asked by Rebeltaxi, a Youtuber who comments on animation and gaming, in a new video:

While applauding the series’s anarchic humor, Rebeltaxi maintains that the games never quite managed to demonstrate the full potential of stop-motion gaming. He shows some love for the original 1993 Super Nintendo game, animation for which was directed by Ken Pontac at Danger Productions, but argues that the sequels were rushed, and in any case limited by the hardware available to them. The result: they looked basic and played awkwardly.

Rebeltaxi notes that clay modeling played an important function in the pre-cgi days: it enabled fantastical creatures to be rendered semi-realistically. “Some great creature designs came from this blend of mediums in all sorts of games,” he says. “It was like the virtual equivalent of what Ray Harryhausen did.” But, as he adds, stop-motion games have never really taken off — no doubt due in part to the advent of cgi.

For all of Clayfighter’s flaws, he concludes, “The claymation gimmick is still so under-utilized today that you can’t help but see a charm to it.” He calls on stop-motion titans like Laika and Aardman Animations to give it a try. He may not have to wait too long: in 2018, Aardman’s creative director Dan Efergan told a journalist, “Definitely somewhere in our future is a stop-motion video game.”

Is there a stop-motion game close to your heart? Which studio would you like to see make one? Let us know in a comment below.

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Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit is Associate Editor of Cartoon Brew.

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