Game Music, Reviews

Soule’s Silliest Project To Date: zOMG! the Soundtrack (Review)

August 17, 2009 | | 7 Comments Share thison Facebook Soule’s Silliest Project To Date: zOMG! the Soundtrack (Review)on Twitter

Okay, so maybe the Harry Potter Quidditch game was a sillier game to write the music for. But in terms of games with soundtrack releases, zOMG! takes the award for “most unexpected Jeremy Soule project.” Mr. Soule is generally open to composing for anyone who makes the offer and has a game that suits his style of composition. And he’s also been a hero among free-to-play-MMOers, because of his extensive work on Guild Wars and its expansions. But the game is called “zOMG!” I just can’t get over that. It definitely encapsulates everything that’s right and wrong with ‘net communities. Creating derivations of Internet slang (OMG = Oh My God, the “z” comes from people sloppily hitting the left shift key) is what makes virtual community unique. But that may or may not make it a good starting place for a videogame.

The game, produced by the good folks at Gaia Online, now allows community members of their site to play a proper, quest-based MMORPG. To help build a strong presentation for the game, they hired Soule to record over 25 melodies for the game. And considering Soule’s excellent track record (Morrowind, Oblivion, Icewind Dale), Gaia Online was able to, at the very least, ensure that people would be drawn into the game based on the music.

And while Soule is keen on using some of his standby orchestral techniques, I’ve never quite heard a score like this for any game before. It may not be his best work, but it is one where he, perhaps, learns to take himself less seriously. And in that space, we find something shiny and wonderful, if only because it’s so fresh and new. After the jump, check out our full review of zOMG! the Soundtrack.

Let me start by drawing a few quick comparisons. There’s a very “Halloween fantasy” vibe that I get from this game. The soundtrack, the art, all of it. Pirates and ninjas aside, the game feels like a big costume party, a masquerade. Thus, it is only fitting that we would expect to hear music akin to that of Danny Elfman. Or, for you Disgaea fans, I would suggest that the score to zOMG! sounds a bit like a Tenpei Sato score, though with far less synth and much more real instrumental recording.

The downloadable soundtrack opens with “Off to a Great Start,” and it sounds like Jeremy Soule just got finished watching a Tim Burton marathon and was rather inspired to take on the adventurous and whimsical spirit of our old friend, Mr. Elfman. But it’s not like one piece can speak for the whole of the soundtrack. Indeed, the next track on the album sounds like something Joe Hisaishi would write, what with its emphasis on piano and an intentional avoidance of being pegged as entirely major or minor. Yes, I think “A Time To Train” brings out the other side of what this score offers. It’s still light, and it’s bright, but that doesn’t mean we should enjoy it any less than the gravitas of Morrowind.

Throughout the soundtrack, Soule dabbles in a lot of styles of music, but all within a decidedly neo-classical, neo-romantic tradition. There is no pop, rock, hip-hop, “soul” (see what I did there?), or any other contemporary musical genres. Over the entirety of the score, Soule makes use of a full-piece orchestra, but some tracks sound more like chamber music selections. I am shocked at how well Soule wrote for the piano. At times, I feel like what I have on my hands is a piano concerto with orchestra as mere accompaniment. To draw a third comparison, some pieces do remind me of “Destati,” a Yoko Shimomura composition from the Kingdom Hearts series.

All in all, this soundtrack is good stuff. I cannot emphasize this point strongly enough: it’s far from Soule’s best work, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an impressive feat for a man whose usual compositions sound like something entirely different than what you’ll find here. It’s not, say, the jump to “childishness” that we saw from Mitsuda’s Hako no Niwa, but there is a sort of innocence and playfulness to this soundtrack that one might not expect. Now that you’ve read this review, expect it. It’s a new sound for Soule, and it’s one I think I could get used to if he wanted to keep writing music for games like this, or for zOMG! expansion content.

The soundtrack itself is available on DirectSong for only $4, which is a great deal given the quality and quantity of music to be found.

So, dear reader, what are your thoughts on Soule taking this project? And what are your thoughts on the game zOMG!, be it the name itself or the actual gameplay? Fill us in!

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