Spooky Bonus, a Halloween-themed match-3 puzzler from Grey Alien Games, has been kicking around the casual game portals for a few years and just recently made it to Steam. Just in time for my favorite holiday I’ve got a review of its surprisingly luscious soundtrack which would quickly send me hunting for the sound effects volume control. Creep on inside to find out what’s lurking behind the cacophony of puzzle game sounds… if you daaaaaare!
This is one of those soundtracks I’d probably never have discovered if we weren’t provided the music files specifically for review. Like some of my other favorite puzzle game soundtracks, the constant clanging and exploding of the colorful game pieces overshadows the much more subtle and subdued music of Spooky Bonus. Created by Maarten van Strien, a composer from the Netherlands who goes by CS_TBL (and is really hard to find a discography for), the soundtrack includes only nine songs taken directly from the game files. They’re designed to be looped in the game and run for just over a minute each. It’s unfortunate because the quality of the live instrumentation and composition deserves much more time to grow. But click that Repeat button on your media player a couple times and you’ve suddenly got eight wonderfully spooky soundscapes to linger in to your heart’s content. Let’s take a closer look.
‘Intro’ starts things off strong with a loud crescendo of strings and bass joined by a little “spy guitar” flair before the piping of horns leads to an airy chime and triangle bridge. The whole thing simmers down to a whimper of melancholy strings before looping back around to that big initial swell. ‘Title’ doesn’t waste any time going for the spooky vibe, launching with organs and driving strings into a playful, macabre waltz. ‘Level 1’ is a gorgeous showcase of strings and woodwind that ebb and flow from short runs to long holds with some nice chimes for accent.
‘Level 2’ sees the return of that spy guitar only this time the accompanying strings are much more haunting than in ‘Intro’. They slowly build into a sweeping melody with a tick-tock percussion that feels a bit like a Michiru Yamane Castlevania track. Things are quickly halted by some heavy bass hits and it all deflates back down for the loop to begin again. This is one of the tracks I’d love to have heard fully fleshed out.
Speaking of that Yamane Castlevania sound, ‘Level 3’ continues the vibe with more sweeping strings that duel back and forth with woodwinds. Another heavy breakdown leads to a bridge of dissonant tones and forlorn choir, again setting up for a loop that I really wish came much later.
The track ‘Level 4’ could easily accompany a dramatic chase scene through a dark forest. It begins again with a fast organ melody and leaps into action with charging strings, clanging chimes and a rushing woodwind interlude. In contrast, ‘Level 5’ returns to the slower tick-tock percussion backing of previous tracks, built up by stabbing woodwinds and bass. The strings once again carry a haunting melody as a dim choir wafts through at times. It feels very pensive and appropriate for what must be some of the game’s final, most devious puzzle boards.
‘Level End’ is a quick little jingle of all the soundtrack’s component parts. Strings, woodwinds, bass, and choir all mingle in a quick victory tune, the only one in the collection that isn’t fit to loop and repeat. Finally there’s ‘Game End’, which I imagine to be the accompaniment to the game’s ending screen. It isn’t a triumphant fanfare though, instead feeling more like contemplative relief. Floaty strings interplay alongside staccato woodwinds and there’s loads of plucky guitar and string squeak.
It all adds up to just nine and a half minutes of music but thankfully you can easily keep it looping for as long as you’d like. I was really surprised by the consistency and quality of each track in Spooky Bonus. They may not be very long but they’ve stuck with me the last few days and provided a wonderful, spooky soundscape to my Halloween week. You can pick up Spooky Bonus now on Steam (or at a discount from Grey Alien themselves) and enjoy the music in-game or copy the .ogg files to your music player of choice.Tags: Game Music, Grey Alien Games, Halloween, Indie Games, Maarten van Strien, Reviews, Soundtrack, Spooky Bonus