Inspired by this post about the music throughout the Mass Effect series, I started thinking about all of the excellent soundtracks that I’ve enjoyed while playing games. This is by no means an exhaustive list; please comment and share some of your favorite video game soundtracks too! I’d love to listen to more.
Mass Effect 3 – It was highlighted in the article I linked to above, but it does make my personal list of favorite soundtracks. The compilation overall takes you through a range of emotions, but there are some individual tracks that can take you from elation to heartbreak to resolve within a four minute space of time. Definitely worth a listen through, if you’re looking for a well-rounded, very orchestral driven experience. Not to mention, it makes you feel like whatever you’re doing within your cubicle is contributing to saving the galaxy!
Red Dead Redemption – The soundtrack of RDR made a huge chunk of the atmosphere of this game. When the genre “western” enters most people’s heads, they think of hackneyed banjo music with a clanky washboard accompaniment. How refreshing then that the music used to great the bring depth to the western theme in RDR wasn’t twangy or cliche at all. Some of these tracks are unnerving, most are energizing, and a few (particularly the song through the credits “Deadman’s Gun” by Ashtar Command) can bring you to tears. Although the songs with lyrics are closer to the end of the game, the three of them are my favorites on the album. Do yourself a favor, get lost in the old west by listening to this soundtrack.
Splice – You can read in the game title link that I’ve already highlighted this incredible soundtrack. Ethereal and stirring, it brings you along a ride you didn’t think possible with a protagonist-less puzzler. The movement that takes the audience on a journey is the incredible strength in every song on this soundtrack. You’ll be doing a disservice to yourself if you don’t check out this soundtrack (free to preview in its entirety on bandcamp).
Bastion – This . . . this soundtrack is perfection. I saved the best for last. I’ve heard this soundtrack be compared to the Firefly soundtrack, which I thought was fitting. It gives off a non-western (hemisphere) vibe, mixed with a few, very subtle western (cowboy) themes. A diverse range of instruments orchestrate every track, and the songs with vocalists are . . . haunting, but in the best most moving way possible. I realize all of these descriptions sound very hyperbolic, but seriously, this one . . . the money soundtrack, undoubtedly.
Like I said, there are lots of other game soundtracks I love (Catch-22, Braid, Super Meat Boy, Cave Story, Chrono Trigger, Donkey Kong, etc.) but these are really some of the cream of the crop. I’ll also take this chance to give a shoutout to a YouTube artist who does incredible acapella covers of video game songs. He hits some of the most popular jams (e.g. Guile’s Theme from Super Street Fighter 2) as well as a few more obscure hits that are just great songs (e.g. DuckTales’ Moon Theme). His username is Smooth McGroove and if you love raw talent recreating your favorite video game tracks, you have to go and subscribe!
Quick post before my next review, I just wanted to celebrate the great advice I got at PAX about posting to other outlets – I got published! http://venturebeat.com/2012/09/10/more-fun-playing-catch-22-than-reading-catch-22/
Bitmob.com was a suggestion from Chris Kohler actually (that wasn’t even a joke, I swear I will stop saying his name) that I had never heard of before. Community writers populate the website with content and editors of the site go through and pick their favorites of the day to put on the front page. They’re also partnered with VentureBeat which has a sub-community/page called GamesBeat that gets the same features. SO! I’m on two sites! I’ll save you the time of reading it by saying the content is nothing new, but they did edit the beginning a bit for clarity, which is a really good point for me to take away (i.e. always making descriptions and set ups as clear as possible). Anyway, again, just wanted to share for a minute. It’s probably a lot less important than I’m making it, but at the same time, it feels pretty gratifying, since I’ve applied to about a dozen jobs and haven’t even heard back from any of them, that’s how far away from achieving my goal I feel. So this is a small victory, in the small bout of failure I’ve been in. Woot!
Bottom line: if you want to get published about games stuff, try bitmob.com! I’m in such a good mood, I won’t even pretend to keep this to myself.
Hardy har har, what a clever title. I actually really enjoy the novel, Catch-22. But the point is that the game Catch-22, a puzzler that was one of the PAX10 (ten indie games selected by a panel as the best indie games at PAX), is truly delightful.
I am notoriously bad at puzzle games. I talk about how bad I am at them all the time. I googled my way through many spots of Portal, I watched a lot of YouTube videos for Braid levels, I am basically the worst. Hell, I even looked up how to get through a couple spots in the A Book of Unwritten Tales demo I played. Perhaps the worst part is that I don’t even feel bad about the internet searching I do for answers and experiences that aren’t my own. So for me to play a puzzle-type game (maybe more a strategy game? I’m not sure what genre to put it in exactly) and then get really hyped for it is notable.
Built by a three-man team that started the development company Mango Down, Catch-22 features a green ball and a blue ball circling a pink sphere in opposite directions. You first control the blue ball as you jump over the green ball to collect gold coins hovering above the pink sphere’s surface. Once you collect all the gold coins (which increase in number with every level you pass), you swap to controlling the green ball and have to collect the same gold coins which then reappear. The catch (HEY-O!) is that the blue ball remembers the exact trajectory it took while you tried to collect all the gold coins the first time. So you have to dodge its jumps, and collect coins. After you move back to the blue ball, the green ball remembers its most recent path, so on and so forth.
It’s a total brain bender for me. It’s so beyond the realm of my intelligence that I can still laugh every time the balls collide and I lose. For a brief moment after all the gold coins are collected, both balls look slightly shattered and if you can maneuver them to collide in that brief window of time, then both balls forget their past paths and you get a clean slate for the upcoming coin collection, which is a bigger bonus than you realize until you play the game. The video below is a demo of a slightly earlier build of the game, but the premise is the same.
The art is really simple, which I’m a sucker for. Warm tones and cartoon-y fonts give it all a whimsy feel, and I love that it doesn’t try to make it anything more than it is – a fun, simple game to play on your mobile device when you’re waiting in line. One piece of the puzzle I didn’t get at PAX due to the noisy exhibition hall was the music playing in the background. When I started playing it on my PC, I was pleasantly surprised by the warm strings and mid-range notes that guide you through the game. Very beautiful and soothing, a great addition to the experience.
And perhaps best of all, when I stopped by at PAX to play this, the guys were so incredibly nice. I’m not sure which one of the gentleman I talked to, but he answered all of my questions, didn’t laugh at my abysmal lack of skills, and just seemed genuinely happy and enjoying the spotlight of the PAX10 (which with the high caliber of indie games that were there, is a huge and well-deserved accomplishment for Catch-22). More than the gameplay, the artwork, or the music, that makes me root for Catch-22 to be a roaring success.
The game doesn’t have a release date yet (a couple of false dates are floating around on their Facebook page and website, but it is confirmed in Facebook comments that it isn’t available yet), but when it does come out it will be on iOS and Android platforms. To be even more awesome, the guys at Mango Down put out a completely free Facebook app version, found here! Great practice before the app officially releases for mobile devices. To play, just install the Unity web extension (which it will prompt you to do when you click the link) and wait for a not short amount of time for it to load.
My high score is level 8, 25,087, which I’m proud of now but I feel like once you all start playing and commenting your high scores I’m going to be severely disappointed. Leave a comment, what’s your high score? Better yet, are you hooked already?