It seems that every few months a new independent game appears seemingly out of nowhere and melts our faces. To kick off the new year, Terry Cavanagh, creator of titles like Don’t Look Back, Pathways, and XOLDIERS, has presented us with a side-scrolling, mind-bendingly difficult, retro platformer entitled VVVVVV. Our friends over at Destructoid fawned over the game (and so did I), but what of its retro soundtrack?
Swedish chiptune artist, Magnus Pålsson (writing under the stage/band name SoulEye), helms the soundtrack with a lot of heart and gives the game an authentic retro feel. But, is that enough? Click the jump and brace yourselves as I unleash my classical sensibilities on this chiptune soundtrack!
Admittedly, this is my first formal chiptune experience here at OSV. I know very little about the chiptune process and don’t own an album from one chiptune artist (that’s why we have Joshua, our chiptune specialist). But, for PPPPPP (that’s how they titled the soundtrack, I swear), I don’t need to know what a MadTracker is to know that this soundtrack is absolutely spectacular.
At first glance, this soundtrack (and all chiptune music, for that matter) may appear to be simplistic and little more than a novelty act. This is dead wrong. Making good chiptune music might be as tall an order as making a good orchestral score. In this style, all of the parts are laid out in front of the listener: melody, bass line, rhythm, etc. There is no orchestration behind which to hide – no ambiance to fill in the gaps. The melodies must be immediately accessible, long, and able to be varied upon countless times – all while having to be an enjoyable piece of music. PPPPPP does all this and then some.
The main theme, “Pushing Onwards,” is slightly reminiscent of Ryu’s theme from the fabled Street Fighter series, but takes on a life of its own. The minoric sense of adventure and infectious rhythm propels the action forward and makes dying hundreds of times seem less painful as the score continues without interruption. It is as though it is suggesting, “Forget that you just died. Let’s keep going!” And it works.
“Presenting VVVVVV” is a somber and mysterious little track. Slow and reflective, this piece reminds us that this journey is not all fun and games. Despite the smiles of the protagonist, this quest is very real and there are people to save.
“Waiting for VVVVVV” is the most self-serving and hilarious track of the bunch. It is the only track with vocals and has similar ukulele sensibilities to Matt Cheney’s “Everyone Loves Donuts” from ‘Splosion Man. “If I could be somebody else, I would be Terry Cavanagh,” sings the first line. “The awesomeness of graphics, isn’t really it. No, the gameplay and story is what makes it fit,” in an obvious defense of the retro graphics.
“Potential For Anything” is the most modern-sounding track of the bunch. Still heavily ensconced in chip music, the beat and style of the piece lend themselves more to a modern dance track with some retro aesthetics as opposed to the other tracks which feel as though they have been ripped right out of my Amiga. Still, it is a competent and catchy tune which adds to the collection nicely. Lastly, “Positive Force” (featured in the video above) recapitulates the themes from “Pushing Onwards” rounding out the soundtrack beautifully.
PPPPPP, the soundtrack to VVVVVV, is currently on sale for $4 US directly from Pålsson and is worth every penny (buy it HERE). Clocking in at just over thirty-four minutes of music, this bag of retro goodness will remind you of the sense of wonder, mystery, and adventure that made us all fall in love with games to begin with. What we didn’t have in “graphical awesomeness” was made up for with great gameplay and a musical presentation that still flourishes and has a place beside the great soundtracks thirty years later. The great paradox of this music is that it is innately the most inorganic kind of music there could be, but the emotions and spiritual notes into which it taps are the most organic of all.
Bravo, SoulEye.Tags: Chiptunes, Indie, Magnus Palsson, PPPPPP, Reviews, SoulEye, Terry Cavanagh, Videogame, VVVVVV