Welcome to part two of our DreamHack student showcase break down where I have the privilege of talking about one of the wildest games I’ve experienced in a long time: One Hand Clapping, by Bad Dream Games. I only briefly met three of the artists behind this awesome trip of a 2D puzzle platformer, so I don’t have as much background as I did with Da Invincible from part one but you can check out their website here to learn more about the group of USC students that make up Bad Dream Games. I didn’t get to talk with the creators as much as I’d have liked but I did get the chance to play through the first 15 or 20 minutes of One Hand Clapping and let me tell you, it would take exponentially more than a lone hand to manifest the applause this game deserves and I’m so pumped to tell you all why.
Part II — One Hand Clapping
I was walking around the student showcase, looking for the Da Invincible team while browsing all the other games. I came across a laptop setup with a small headset mic plugged into it. Two things about this setup caught my attention: It wasn’t an intense gaming mic, which were bountiful at this convention, and the art style for the game on the screen was sublime. The headset would’ve been generic anywhere outside of a gaming convention but I could feel there was something interesting going on. The game was opened to its title screen and that alone was enough for me to appreciate the visual style.
They said to me that it was a puzzle platformer in which you use your voice to interact with the environment around you. “What?” I asked.
They laughed as if they’d experienced the conversation before, and repeated themselves. They told me to put on the headset and give it a go. I obliged.
They were vaguely explaining how singing into the microphone is a vital component of the game, the DCD bucks laughing and building hype over my shoulder, when I clicked “start game”. It opened up to a lone, ambiguous figure standing amongst a dark, delicately shaded, ominous city. A city that could pass as a creative combination of (only for the sake of visualization, it’s really quite distinctive) MapleStory’s Kerning City, a modern-day Bloodborne, and the aesthetic spark of ABZÜ.
You move with the traditional WASD but that’s where the familiarity ends. The rest is up to your voice and your brain. The first thing the game asks you to do is calibrate the microphone by producing a consistent, low hum— and at this point, the game’s first instruction, I was stupefied. I let out numerous, stuttering, exclamatory versions of, “What the hell? This is mental,” and those exclamations didn’t cease until I eventually stepped away from the game.
When you calibrate the microphone, you make a low, rumbling hum in your chest, and as you feel the reverberations, your character begins to absorb some sort of energy or force in an animation akin to absorbing XP in the Fable series. As you and the character on screen share this visceral experience, there’s a very subtle accompanying chorus in the background that augments the experience further. Making the gamer use their voice in this way births a sensual, tangible connection to the game world that surpasses nearly anything I’ve experienced outside of virtual reality (full disclosure— I cried the first time I played Robo Recall and Lone Echo in VR... okay, the first two times... fine, I still cry when I VR. It’s a marvel of human creativity and storytelling). This connection continues throughout the magical platformer as you constantly have to use your voice to affect the environment around you through some sort of audiokinesis (such as forming rubble into bridges and platforms that you must maintain or control to progress). Changing the pitch of your voice changes the way you affect the world, which allows for an accessible but variant gameplay experience. And though I only traversed one environment, the ominous city, any screenshots you can find and all of the game’s trailers show remarkable, vivifying worlds infused with a curious artistic style. That lively, dynamic style was palpable even in the opening environment with its pale blue-greens and shadows.
As I’ve discussed before, gaming is separate from almost all other forms of entertainment in that it allows agency; the gamer controls and experiences the story to a greater extent— and this idea is expounded upon in a tangible, guttural way as you feel the vibrations in your chest and throat as you affect the world and platforms across which you travel. It’s a really brilliant, innovative thing these USC students have managed to do, combining a passion for music and gaming and creating something truly fantastical. I hope you all have a chance to play the game, which they’re sharing with us freely like our Da Invincible friends on itch.io. I was blown away by the student showcase at DreamHack and I’ll say as I’ve said before: it’s pretty clear this coming generation of game creators knows what it’s all about. And we better get ready for it.
I hope everybody that’s able to checks out One Hand Clapping and Da Invincible or at least tunes in to the streams to maybe catch us playing one of them; they’re really incredible. If you’ve seen or played either of these games, drop us a comment and let us know your thoughts!