Refinné is a budding games journalist with a heavy focus on casual mobile games that don't demand too much of her single brain cell.
I’ve played my fair share of claw machine games, ranging from those that promise real-world prizes to virtual ones, but I can’t say that I’m a fan of these types of games. They always seem to be so money-grabby, getting you to pay just so you can get that special collectible item- but that isn't the case with Claw Stars, at least for now. Claw Stars is one of the best collectible games I’ve played recently. It combines the classic claw machine with multiplayer mechanics similar to Board Kings, and the designs are absolutely adorable.
I've previously written about Claw Stars in my listicle of 5 Collectible Games That Are Not Card Games. This review is based on the Early Access version, which ended last month. The game is currently in Pre-Registration, so you might not be able to play it just yet. According to the game’s official social media, the game is expected to launch on June 30, 2021.
In the game, you control a hamster in a spaceship that has a claw hanging from the bottom with a joystick and a button. This makes up the main feature of the game, which is simple and reminiscent of physical claw machines. The main screen of the game, where you’ll do most of your playing, is called the abandoned zone. It follows the theme of whichever planet you are currently on, as does the Habitat, which can be accessed by swiping from the abandoned zone.
Armed with your spaceship claw machine hybrid, your main task is to pick up items from the abandoned zones on each planet. There are many different items to claw for in the game, and all of them contain different items for different features of the game. There's a bit of a gacha element in the sense that you never know what you're going to get until you pick it up, which is pleasantly interesting, but sometimes frustrating too, if you don't get what you want.
The main currency of the game is coins, which are plentiful in the abandoned zone. You may also get coins in both the blue orbs and the purple capsules. You will need coins to upgrade buildings and buy stamps for your stamp album. The premium currency is gems, which you can also get for free from the abandoned zone, or by spinning the Astro Wheel.
You can spin the Astro Wheel using an Astro Key, which is hidden in the Golden Balls. The Golden Balls also have a chance of containing Style Tokens, which takes you to the Style Station where you can purchase skins for your hamster. You can only access the Style Station when you get a Style Token.
Other players can sabotage you by blocking your buildings, hacking your vault and stealing coins, or kidnapping your animals. You’ll need to spend coins to remove the barricades from your buildings and pay the ransom to get your animals back. Thankfully, you’re not helpless against these attacks- you can protect yourself by getting powerups, including drones to snipe any suspecting kidnappers or a shield to prevent blockades. There’s also always the revenge option, so you can get your own back against the saboteurs!
In the Early Access version, there were only nine planets to restore. I completed all nine in about a month. I expect to see more worlds and more content in the global launch version, but just nine planets took me a little over three weeks to complete, going at a moderate pace and purchasing just one of the $9.99 Ruby Packs. As it is, there is definitely enough content to keep you going for quite some time.
My favorite thing about this game is the visuals. Each planet is thematic, and the corresponding creatures are the most adorable animals I’ve ever seen. Honestly, if the developers ever decide to make plushies, I would buy every one of them.
The graphics and animations of the game are pretty smooth, considering the number of assets in the game. Loading can be slow sometimes, especially since the game updated to allow players to revisit the habitats of previous planets.
By this point, you can probably tell that I really like this game, but as always, it’s not perfect. Claw regeneration is subpar, giving only four every 40 minutes. You can store more than the max capacity of 28 if you get extra claws from gift boxes or elsewhere, but you won’t get auto-regenerated claws if you max the capacity. 28 claws really don’t last long, so it comes to a point where I only get to play for 15-20 minutes, then have to close the game to wait for more. More often than not, I’ll forget about the game and waste a good amount of auto-regenerated claws.
The multiplayer parts definitely need a lot of improvement and balancing. Hacking, attacking, and kidnapping are massively unbalanced in the game because I can’t leave the game for more than half an hour before all my money and animals are stolen and kidnapped, and I can’t seem to hold down enough coins to upgrade my buildings because they keep getting blocked. I suspect this may be because there were only a few servers during Early Access, so I look forward to this being fixed in the global launch.
Claw Stars certainly looks promising, especially for an Early Access game. The bright visuals and light music make for a very pleasing eye and ear candy, which is great for blowing off steam at the end of the day. I really look forward to the official launch to see what improvements and new content the developers have in store for this game!