Platformer games are two a penny these days, often using ideas that were popular in the genre’s heyday – for better or worse. But what if I told you a developer had come up with a concept that involves your vocal chords being the key to success? Well, Bad Dream Games have attempted to do exactly that in the vocal 2D platformer One Hand Clapping. The question is, will One Hand Clapping hit all the right notes and be hailed a masterpiece, or could this novel idea just be full of bum notes?
One Hand Clapping is a 2D platformer which places you in control of an unnamed, rather cute looking, protagonist as it journeys through various environments. It’s not your usual platformer though, and so navigating the world won’t be as straightforward as jumping about. The idea is to use your voice to solve some puzzling problems and manipulate sections within each area, thus making it possible for the little creature to advance. All you need is a headset or microphone, and a controller, and you’re good to go.
So, how does it work? Well, One Hand Clapping eases you in very gently by simply requiring you to emit any kind of sound from your vocal chords in order to create energy to power-up lamp posts on a dark street. Then it might want you to elevate platforms or move them from side to side, helping the main character get around. Initial impressions will lead you to thinking it’s a novel experience, with incredibly easy puzzles that could become monotonous, but one that ultimately works. From this point on however, things change a fair bit.
Upon arriving in the next area, and those that follow, the difficulty is cranked up substantially and certainly weeds out the noisemakers from the singers. In a similar vein to Max and the Curse of Brotherhood, you must create your own platforms; albeit in a different way, by setting the heights through your pitch and then altering it while singing in order to raise or decrease Soon, hitting specific notes and holding them for short periods of time is to be expected, as is running through an entire range from high to low or low to high. There are actually a few sections reminiscent of Singstar, with the bars scrolling across the screen and you have to fill them by recreating the corresponding note.
For those who are musically inclined, it gets more interesting as rhythmic puzzling comes to the forefront too. Pressing bumper buttons in sync with on-screen prompts offers a real change to the gameplay. Another example of rhythm based tasks sees platforms and obstacles disappear and reappear to the sound of the beat, which provides a little bit of a timing challenge. Interacting with shells can also change the tempo of the beats to suit. That’s not all either as there are even moments where you listen to sounds made by berries and remove the odd ones. Variety is definitely present throughout the experience.
Is One Hand Clapping ingenious? Absolutely, and every conundrum you’ll encounter is quite small in the grand scheme of proceedings, so you’re going to be achieving flurries of tiny eureka moments within each area. Should you find it too tough, there are visual aids you can switch on and these show which notes you’re making with your voice as well as the ones you’re attempting to hit. If all else fails, there’s an option to let the game auto-solve the majority of the problems at hand, hence getting stuck forevermore is almost impossible.
Not everything is positive though, with a severe lack of storytelling being one of the lowlights. Granted, narratives without words aren’t uncommon these days, but it’s tough to actually interpret what’s going on here. I find that’s a shame because most of the biomes are incredibly vibrant, with a lovely mountainous region and a flourishing forest standing out. Some of the creatures and characters you meet along the way are so well designed that you’re practically begging to know more about them.
The further you venture through this visually appealing world though, the less intuitive the puzzles become and the more you may feel a little overwhelmed. It’s a big leap from simply producing sound, to eventually creating an entire loop of recorded actions using a copy of the protagonist. You can overlook the difficulty, but One Hand Clapping could do with a bit more in terms of explaining how the new mechanics work as they appear in the adventure.
And now for the technical bits. Whether you’ve got a Rock Band microphone, fancy Turtle Beach headphones with a mic built-in, or the one-eared Official Xbox headset, it matters not – they’ll all do a job. Your voice on the other hand may be a slight issue as you do need to possess some control in order to hit certain notes. Most people should be fine though – you don’t need to have Adele levels of talent!
On the whole, One Hand Clapping is a clever concept and Bad Dream Games have come up with all sorts of fun ways to use your voice. The platforming itself isn’t overly tricky, but the puzzles will give your vocal chords a good workout. Due to new mechanics being added regularly, there’s never a whiff of boredom and you’ll realise how enjoyably rewarding making sounds can be. The different environments have been created with such love however, that it’s a little disappointing a tangible story isn’t in place.
One Hand Clapping may cause confusion at times with what’s expected of you, and it probably won’t be ideal for the tone deaf, but for the most part it’s going to deliver a puzzler that’s like no other. So grab a mic, let your hair down and sing like nobody’s watching.
Use your voice to succeed in One Hand Clapping now available on the Xbox Store