Xbox has been lagging behind its peers when it comes to games featuring alternative controls. This is most likely due to the mixed reception of the Kinect. (I should point out that Xbox does have an excellent accessibility program, developing a special programmable controller/input device for gamers with disabilities, but that’s not what I’m talking about). The Playstation and Nintendo brands have built-in and external peripherals that allow developers to make creative and unique games. I’m talking about cameras, haptic feedback, VR, and plenty more, and don’t be surprised when Nintendo adds a lickable screen to their next system allowing you to taste whatever is in the game, I know you want to know what flavor a Kirby is (this really is a thing, Google it). I guess I feel kind of left out over here with my Xbox, so when I had the opportunity to review One Hand Clapping, the new puzzle platforming game by Bad Dream Games and publisher HandyGames that uses your voice as a main input for gameplay, I was immediately interested.
The Kinect quickly won me over and I loved using all the different musical controllers for Rock Band and Guitar Hero, but anytime I see a game with an alternate controller or input method I’m skeptical. I can tell you right now that the voice controls in One Hand Clapping are not a gimmick or a one-hit-wonder. Instead, the game constantly introduces new mechanics that make use of the voice controls the game and it is all wrapped in an elegant yet simple 2D art style.
The game takes place across six levels, each of which has its own unique aesthetic with vibrant color palettes, where you’ll meet some friendly and adorable creatures that will assist you on your adventure. There isn’t any dialogue in the game so the story is pretty bare-bones. There is a dark, malevolent force that has started to invade the land and you must do what you can to stop it by finding your voice and solving the musical-based puzzles across the land. The game is much larger in scope than I anticipated; a lot of puzzle platformers I play end up only being a few hours, but each of the six levels in One Hand Clapping is packed with content.
To control your character you use the typical controller inputs, the joystick for movement, and A is used to jump. You move pretty slowly and you can’t jump very high. These movement mechanics are pretty basic and ordinary and they play second fiddle to the musical-based mechanics. In order to actually play the game, you also need a headset with a microphone. The game has a nice set of options to set up the voice controls, allowing you to adjust the input octave and the sensitivity of the mic so you can adjust the settings to better fit your voice. The voice-controlled mechanics start out pretty simple; you will be using your voice to pick up and move boxes as well as to raise and lower platforms. I didn’t know what to expect after this, but the developers did a wonderful job expanding the mechanics. You’ll use your voice to do a large number of things, such as aim and throw objects or create platforms that curve with the harmony of your voice allowing you to avoid objects in your path. Similarly, there are flying sections where you move the character up or down depending on the pitch of your voice. Each level introduces new mechanics while reusing some of the previous ones. My favorite level is probably Melody Mountain which expanded the mechanics even further with rhythm-based button inputs and programmable pods that let you set the speed of objects in the environment. I also liked the first level, the Silent City, and how its dark and dreary atmosphere was in juxtaposition to the bright, colorful levels that followed.
I’m not musically inclined in the slightest, and I’m much closer to tone-deaf than pitch-perfect, so I was a little worried that my shortcomings would detract from my enjoyment of the game as well as the enjoyment of anyone within earshot. First of all, I’ll let you know that there aren’t any major fail states, most of the time if you mess up there’s little to no penalty, and the few times that there is if you mess up you’ll just have to restart that section of the puzzle. My musical inadequacies did prove to be a hindrance at some points though. Certain spots require you to input precise notes in a specific order and I had a difficult time putting them together. At the end of most of the levels, there will be a matching segment where you need to sing or hum the melody that is played for you; fortunately, you don’t have to do this perfectly, as long as you get a portion of them correct you can advance. There are achievements for performing each of these segments perfectly, so if small animals run in fear of your singing voice as they do with mine then you won’t have any hope of getting all the achievements in this game.
Being a game about music one would hope that the soundtrack and sound design is up to snuff, and it is. Some tracks are catchier than others – my favorite being the score for Melody Mountain. The sound machine elements really made the level stand out, I liked how it would play back the noise you made and then make a little melody. There is also a dance club near the top of the mountain that you can enter and then change the tempo of the music being played.
One Hand Clapping isn’t a masterpiece, but it is a refreshing and unique game especially on the Xbox platform which is woefully in need of alternative games such as this. I wish more developers would take risks like this; unfortunately, those risks aren’t usually rewarded. So if you want to try something different and reward creativity then don’t hesitate to pick up One Hand Clapping.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.