One Hand Clapping Review: Right on key!
Every time you turn around, it seems like a new platformer introduces an interesting fresh spin on the heritage genre. Whether it be time manipulation, dimensional changes, or something else entirely, platformers are seemingly well-equipped to handle new mechanics to reinvigorate the 40+ year old game type. So it shouldn’t be all that surprising to see a simple concept like voice activation implemented in to the genre, right? Right — so why does One Hand Clapping feel like a completely revolutionary idea in the space when the technology has seemingly been there for years? Ah well, better late than never!
One Hand Clapping, developed by Bad Dream Games and published by HandyGames, may look really familiar to many; popularized a few years ago by big names like Markiplier, JackSepticEye, and even PewDiePie, One Hand Clapping has an interesting development story. First created as a demo project back in 2018 by a handful of students at the University of Southern California, One Hand Clapping evolved from its humble roots to a full game available on pretty much any current platform you can think of. And while a microphone is required to play, a beautiful singing voice isn’t — in fact, sometimes the sillier you sound, the more entertaining it is.
As a concept, One Hand Clapping is extremely cool. You have a lil guy who needs to get from point A to point B in standard platforming fashion; however, there are puzzles scattered throughout the levels that are voice-activated/controlled, making for some pretty unique gameplay. At first it’s fairly simplistic, such as sustaining a note or singing a high note to force an elevator to go up or a low note to descend. As the levels progress, the puzzles get increasingly more complex, with portions requiring players to hit specific keys at specific times, sing to the beat, and so on. There are music games, there are rhythm games, and then there is One Hand Clapping — something altogether new.
One Hand Clapping does a lot of things right, from its beautifully crafted world that convey a variety of moods and emotions to its difficulty scaling that allows anyone to play even if they can’t carry a tune in a bucket with a lid on it. Even its music, which would normally be a pretty prominent and powerful force in music games, takes a backseat to allow the player’s voice to shine through, which was an extremely smart move on the developers’ part. On paper, One Hand Clapping is nothing short of genius: a simple concept with a surprise novelty that entertains no matter how good the player is at singing.
With that being said, I couldn’t shrug off one aspect of One Hand Clapping, and that was… well, the platforming part. Worth repeating, the voice controls are nothing short of spectacular; as a sucker for novelty in games, picking up this game based on concept alone was a no-brainer. But should that mechanic be taken out, One Hand Clapping goes from a neat, quirky idea to an average and slow platformer. It wasn’t just in the fact that gameplay takes some time getting used to (there’s a lot of milling about as you slooooowly figure out the right notes to press buttons, move objects, etc.), but that character movement is relaxed at best and sluggish at worst. Even in the occasional chase scenes that provide the rare boost of adrenaline, you’ll be ambling along at the normal pace you were without danger present. It’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, but it’s worth mentioning that the selling point isn’t excitement.
Of course, if you were interested in One Hand Clapping, you knew what the selling point was: voice controls. Does it do them well? Yes, absolutely — they’re fine-tuned for both elegant serenading and operatic caterwauling and can be calibrated to fit each individual’s range. If you’re not all that great at singing, you may find One Hand Clapping a tad bit difficult, especially in the later levels, but if you have a few friends over and let loose, you’ll be too busy laughing to care how good you sound anyway.
We should forever remain impressed with One Hand Clapping. It’s fresh and unique in a way that makes you hit your forehead and wonder why you didn’t think of it sooner. But in my heart, I know that One Hand Clapping could have become something so much better had it been a truly solid platformer in its own right, or swung hard into teaching singing, or created deeper, more impactful melodies to really convey a more coherent story. I’m grateful for a game like this to exist, but I can’t deny that the feeling is slightly overshadowed by my eagerness for another title to learn from this one and refine the concept further. Regardless, One Hand Clapping is good now, priced fairly, and definitely deserves your attention… as long as you have a microphone.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PS4, PS5, XBox One, XBox Series X|S, Switch, Android, iOS, Stadia, PC (Reviewed); Publisher: HandyGames; Developer: Bad Dream Games; Players: 1; Released: December 14, 2021; MSRP: $14.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of One Hand Clapping provided by the publisher.