Your voice is a powerful thing. With it you can express your emotions, your thoughts and ideas; you can change people’s perceptions, and challenge societal wrongs; you can create music and rhythm with it through poetry and song. One Hand Clapping gives you something new to do with it, as you use your voice to control a video game, leading your avatar across a colourful 2D world. It’s a unique experience.
I think the first thing you have to do when you play One Hand Clapping is get over yourself. It might be easy to shout orders to your team via your headset’s microphone in a multiplayer game, but singing in a controlled and steady manner without feeling like a complete idiot is an utterly different skill. I’m a singer, I’ve played in bands for years, but One Hand Clapping initially tested my resolve, simply due to the alien nature of what it’s asking of you.
The next stage of One Hand Clapping is acceptance. Once you’ve got used to having to make a sonorous noise you have to become accustomed to using it to control a cute purple creature. You’ll sing a low note and the on-screen marker is low, sing a high note and it’ll move towards the top of the screen. Sing in steps and you’ll ‘sing’ a set of stairs to climb.
You don’t have to be Adele, Freddie Mercury or Bruno Mars to play. The tones you’re singing – or humming as it turns out – don’t have to be especially strong, vibrant or laced with natural vibrato, they just have to be at the pitch the game is asking you to hit. When you initially set up the game it asks you to sing a low note and a high note, gathering data on your range so that everything you’re doing should be within your abilities.
You use your voice to solve the puzzles put in front of you, helping your little purple singer move across the landscape. Where there are areas that your little guy can’t simply jump up or across, you’re able to sing a platform into existence that they can walk on. There are also flowers that will only bloom if you sing the right note, opening up to provide a jumping platform, while bigger devices appear that you have to sing a certain phrase, a bit like a musical Simon Says.
It’s strange, but it manages to also be fun. I know I gave a little chuckle every time I did anything new in this early portion of the game, and there’s a real sense of discovery and newness that you wouldn’t expect from a weary old genre like the 2D platformer. I can really see the seeds of something unique here, and I’m sure that the developers will be aiming to wring every ounce of potential out of the possibilities it affords.
The soundtrack accompanying you is ambient and relaxed, and later on when you’re singing refrains back to a floating flower lady, you follow the beat in order to know when it’s your turn to sing. It’s such a cool, if niche, set-up and if the soundtrack can support it I could see myself really getting into the swing of things. It’s not a game to play around other people though – unless they want to hear you poorly holding the same notes for any length of time.
The one shame right now is that One Hand Clapping is an incredibly short experience, with only the first level being playable in Early Access – though that’s reflected in its £2.49 price. It’s certainly unique, engaging and pleasantly presented, and I’m keen to see more of its narrative and the unusual gameplay opportunities as its development progresses.