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Spacial Soundcraft: Astroman OST (Review)

June 7, 2012 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Spacial Soundcraft: Astroman OST (Review)on Twitter

Back in the hay-day of video gaming, there was a genre of game that was coined the “platformer” — in reality a 2D game where your main objective is traversing over the screen and through levels that consisted of many obstacles; most of which were platforms and the like. It was a popular type of game through the 90s that, within the past few years, has really been making a comeback in grand retro-style. Downloadable games seem to be leading the charge recently, with games like Braid and ‘Splosion Man becoming hits in their own right, enticing players with oldschool finger-twitching gameplay.

One of the more overlooked games for the Xbox Live Indie Arcade was a release earlier this year titled Astroman: a platform side-scrolling game featuring an adorable little spaceman romping through the solar system trying to repair his ship as he blasts aliens to bits as he goes. It’s a short, cute game that goes for about $3 on XBLA. However, what really shines about the game isn’t it’s nostalgic gameplay, but rather the music, which has gotten some well-deserved attention due to the recent release of the Indie Game Music Bundle 3.

A short but sweet original soundtrack crafted by composer Jeff Ball, known for his composition and violin work on games such Mass Effect 3 and Monkey Island 2: Special Edition, he has delivered some fantastic work for the little indie title and really makes the game shine. Journey with us into the star-stricken foray of music that is the Astroman Original Soundtrack.

Lending his violin talents to other games such as Gears of War 3 and Wing Commander Saga, Jeff Ball has gained experience in a wide variety of game-related. Being tasked with the construction of the soundtrack for Astroman may have come as a welcome relief, as the tone of most of the tracks give the impression he was having quite a bit o’ fun making them.

“Astroman Theme” starts things off, and actually comes in two flavors — an electronic orchestrated version that opens the game as a soft melody and ends in grand fashion, and an 8-bit version of the same theme, harkening back to its NES platforming roots. From there on, we get into the meat of the game’s music. “Lunar Trekking” and “Planetary Cruise” feature fantastic piano work that really helps give the sense that you’re hopping across the moon through a backdrop of stars. Mind you, you’re blasting little green aliens as you do it, but the whimsical feeling is still there.

“Dark Cavern” is one of my two favorites of the soundtrack. The way it opens with soft synths in the background with simple guitar reminded me a lot of the save rooms of the first few Resident Evil games. This really added to the feeling of being alone, in a dark area with threats all around you, and that uneasy sense of safety you might feel when no enemies are on screen can easily be overturned at a moment’s notice.

“Lakes of Fire” starts ramping up the intensity of getting past the midpoint of the game with faster, techno-like beats and a variety of synths with some accentuating violin work, that fades into a breakdown that gives you a breather before diving right back into the tense melody again. “Alien Confrontation” is my other favorite of the album, with bells punctuating heavy synths that are meant to give a very alien feel to the melody, with synthetic organ notes opening and ending the tune that can’t help but give a sense of dread. You know you’re in the final stretch of things. If you make it past the trials and all the way to the end, you’re treated to the soothing strings of “The Journey Home” as your reward for a job well done as you fly homeward bound.

Astroman‘s music is the highlight of the game to be sure, and honestly, paying the $3 for the game is worth it enough for said music alone. However, if you’d rather cut right past the gaming experience and straight to the soundtrack without distraction, it is up on bandcamp at the ever-awesome Name-Your-Price deal. Also be sure to check out Ball’s other works for some other great music by a wonderful talent. (And always give violinists some props!)

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