It seems that if you have the talent and the drive, game developers are able to go it alone these days. Jonathan Blow (Braid), Daisuke Amaya (Cave Story) and now Tom Francis with Gunpoint are all single developers that have made it to the top. The opposite almost seems to be true for game soundtracks. Famously, Jonathan Blow selected several tracks from the website Magnatune, all from different artists, and the final fantasy series has several composers on hand to write music. Tom Francis seems to have gone for the multi composer route by choosing 3 artists to write the soundtrack for his game, Gunpoint.
(Amaya is the exception, as he wrote all his own music for Cave Story.)
After the jump, I’ll let you in on who all wrote the soundtrack for this riveting new indie game, and what I thought of each composer’s work respectively.
I’d not heard of composers Ryan Ike, Francisco Cerda and John Robert Matz before listening to the Gunpoint soundtrack, their previous works being somewhat obscure (Cerda was highlighted on OSV in the past for his work on Jamestown), but now that I know of them, I will follow their careers with avid attention, because the Gunpoint soundtrack is absolutely amazing!
But first, it’s important to understand the games setting before I start talking about the music. Gunpoint is a stealth-based puzzle-platformer with SNES style graphics and stupidly crazy physics. Though set slightly into the future, the games themes are taken directly from early ’20s spy films and film noir, helped by the main character wearing a trench coat and fedora hat. The jazz style soundtrack takes its inspiration directly from these themes, fitting the games spying/detective elements perfectly (think, a darker Pink Panther).
So; down to the music itself. The first track ‘Main Theme (Melancholia),’ composed by John Robert Matz, sets the Dick Tracy feel straight away. It’s a sombre jazzy number with a muted trumpet solo and minimal bass and drums that instantly draws you into the game world. The second track, composed by Ryan Ike, shows the differences between the composers but also highlights their ability to create a homogeneous soundtrack that really works. ‘Security, Circuitry and You’ brings into focus the more futuristic elements of the game with the introduction of synth elements, while still maintaining the jazz style with soft brush percussion, xylophone and upright bass. It’s interesting to note that while Matz tracks are all live; Ryan’s music seems mostly sequenced, giving it a tight, slightly dryer feeling.
Francisco Cerda is introduced with ”Round Gunpoint,’ track 3. This is somewhat of a departure from the rest of the sneaking/futuristic spy aspect of the soundtrack, sounding more like a smooth song performed in a jazz lounge. It’s actually quite lovely with a nice haunting sax melody and lilting piano, but would have been made even better with a female jazz singer to ‘sit provocatively on the piano’ so to speak.
‘Cold Halls and Footfalls,’ track 7, is just a lovely jazz piece that I had playing in the background while writing this review. Ryan mixes things up with an electric guitar, Rhodes piano and synths which gives the track a very unique feel. Each of main tracks has a ‘crosslink’ alternative that, if you’re into electronic synth music, will really float your boat. I should also point out that if you don’t like Ryan’s music, you’ll be disappointed with this soundtrack as his music makes up a majority of the tracks.
An interesting aspect of this soundtrack is the inclusion of unused music and covers/mixes of each other’s music. I personally think this makes the soundtrack way too long and that tracks 29 – 41 could easily have been missed out. However; ‘Stealth Crawls and Dance Halls,’ by Matz, is a really nice live cover of Ryan’s ‘Cold Halls and Footfalls,’ without the synths. ‘Melancholia Waltz,’ by Francisco Cerda, is an amazing upbeat jazz waltz cover of Matz’s Main Theme. The performances and recording of this track are flawless, making it one of the best tracks of the album, and indeed, although Francisco doesn’t have many songs on this soundtrack, his music is by far the best.
I think the soundtrack loses cohesion a bit about halfway through, as Ryan tries to mix jazz and rock in, what I assume is an attempt to match the increasing complexity of the games mechanics. I found tracks 16 and 19 to be particularly troublesome — introducing more rock style percussion and harmonies, while still implementing jazz melodies and instrumentation, which didn’t quite work for me.
Genre confusion aside, this is a very unique, high quality soundtrack that, if you liked the game or you’re into jazz, would be well worth your time! There are some amazing stand out tracks, some great game music and maybe even a few extra tracks that weren’t needed, but the high quality never dips and for 5.00 USD on Bandcamp or Loudr, this is an absolute steal! I’ve added the soundtrack to my collection, and I would highly recommend you do the same.Tags: Bandcamp, Francisco Cerda, Gunpoint, Jazz, Jazzy, John Robert Matz, Loudr, Reviews, Ryan Ike, Tom Francis