Game Music, Indie Music, Reviews

A Sacrificial Offering: The Binding Of Isaac Soundtrack (Review)

November 4, 2011 | | 1 Comment Share thison Facebook A Sacrificial Offering: The Binding Of Isaac Soundtrack (Review)on Twitter

Over at my personal-ish blog, I’ve been going on and on about a new indie game released exclusively via Steam. The $5 roguelike, from members of Team Meat, is called The Binding of Isaac. And if you haven’t heard of it, we’re clearly not running in the same circles. I suggest you join my circle.

Part of what makes Isaac so Meat-y is that its soundtrack comes from the same composer that did the music for Super Meat Boy: Danny Baranowsky (aka “dB Soundworks”). What makes the soundtrack noteworthy? Well, I happen to think it’s deceptively awesome because of its earworm-grade melodies, but even if it weren’t so wonderful, there’s the price point.

I’ll give you more about the quality of the soundtrack, and its fantastic price point, after the jump.

Question: is selling your music for a dollar entirely sacrificial? It might just be a good business practice. But still, a sizeable chunk of music for only a dollar? The guy is practically giving it away. Hence this article’s headline. And of course, since it’s on bandcamp, you can stream it for free. Listen along as you read!

This soundtrack is a tasty amalgam of epic synth orchestra, rock, and a little bit of chiptuned goodness for added flavor. The first song we heard for the game, when Baranowsky was previewing the album months in advance, was the 5 minute track “Sacrificial.” It serves as the main dungeon music for the game’s first two floors, and it has become one of my favorite pieces of music. The layering and dynamic variation is totally on par with Super Meat Boy, and the instrumentation is dark and creepy in that “abandoned child’s attic” kind of way: something perfectly fitting for this game, and something that Baranowsky seems to have a proclivity for.

The first “boss battle” music is track 7, “Divine Combat.” Two things I love about this track: the driving percussion (from the cymbals in the intro to the strong snare in the B section), and the 16th-note run near the end of the loop on that crazy dark synth. If I were an indie game composer and I wanted to arrange a piece of music, I’d pick this track, and I’d attempt to keep that 16th note run going for as long as humanly possible. So! Good!

The instruments and synth voices chosen on “Sacrificial” are arranged to build an entirely new, and even darker, melody in what seems to be a fan favorite: “Repentant.” Another five minutes of dungeon BGM, this track gives me the chills. Follow it up with the totally beautiful, sublime, ambient track “Respite” (used for the dungeon’s hidden rooms), and you have a one-two punch of goodness. Mama said knock you out.

Oh, and then there’s the 8-bit version of Sacrificial (same name, written in l33t speak) for track 13. Used in certain special rooms, this music makes me want to see the entire game retrofit into an NES cart. After all, the dungeons are patterned after The Legend of Zelda.

The soundtrack gets darker and creepier toward the end, as you’d expect from this sort of game. Things reach a whole new level of awesome with “…Be Done,” which is the music for the floor 8 boss (pre-DLC final boss). Turn up the tempo, turn up the volume, turn up the best of everything from your childhood and mix it with some tongue-in-cheek pseudo-devil rock. While I can clearly differentiate this tune from the music of Super Meat Boy, they both hold a similar quality. I’m at a loss for words, so we’ll call that quality… “quality.”

Two bonus arranged tracks appear from other indie VGM greats. Jimmy Hinson, aka “Big Giant Circles,” gives us “The Clubbing of Isaac.” As Leo Laporte said recently on an episode of TWiT, “the end stage of the evolution of all music is dubstep.” And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Get your freak on with this one.

The second arranged track, “Atempause,” comes from C418 (you know, the guy who writes music for one of the biggest phenomenons in PC gaming…). It’s an arrangement of “Respite,” and while it starts off sounding almost entirely un-arranged, it builds into something of a clockwork glockenspiel menagerie. Oh, and then there’s a shakuhachi. Or some sort of Asian woodwind. In other words, it’s awesome.

The arranged tracks are free to download, but again, the whole soundtrack is only one dollar. An even better option, of course, is to get on Steam and buy the game and the soundtrack bundled together (total $6). But, just in case you’re worried that you’ll dislike this roguelike or, more likely, it’ll eat up all your time, you may be better off with just the music. In which case, you’re welcome. Glad I was here to enlighten you.

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