Game Music, Reviews

Exploring Unseen Treasures – Spelunky (Review)

August 11, 2012 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Exploring Unseen Treasures – Spelunky (Review)on Twitter

You might remember last month when our own Audun interviewed artist Eirik Suhrke about his involvement with the OST of the Xbox Live Arcade version of the indie game Spelunky. Also rocking the world of the chiptune scene under the name Phlogiston, Suhrke has been around longer than most would believe.

He certainly shows his years of experience with his work on Derek Yu’s Spelunky, showcasing not only his expertise with chiptune beats, but also a cacophony of differing yet intriguing sounds, all compressed within a myriad of short-but-sweet tunes. It’s a pixelated Indiana Jones-meets-Terraria environment, and Suhrke brings an extra layer of complexity with his melodic methods.

Click under the break for the (pretty literal) underground sounds of Spelunky!

So when I say that the game’s music is comprised of short, brief jingles and tunes rather than the longer melodies in most games these days, I’m not kidding.  The average length of Suhrke’s tracks around about 50 seconds, which could seem sporadic and too short-cut for some practitioners of avid video game music appreciation.

And yet, they all seem to flow pretty well within one-another. It’s often hard to, when listening to the soundtrack itself, figure out where one track ends and another begins! This brings a certain amount of congruity to soundtrack, as even when broken up amongst a sprawl of levels, you still have everything flowing and organized, often seamlessly traversing into each other. It almost seems has is Suhrke himself was playing one long track with branching and random styles in one shot, and just broke them up post-production to fit into the game’s levels. Such an interesting concept, regardless of its validity.

You’re introduced to the soundtrack with very bass-y sounding synths within the “Title Screen”, and a jazzy mix-up in “Brothel” We start getting into the meat of the tunes with “Jungle B”, as you start digging yourself a hole. (Oh man, these mining jokes might get bad. Sorry) “Shop Radio B” brings a lighter, pop-sounding beat to break things up, then follows into “Mines B”, which is one of my favorite tracks on the OST itself due to reminding me very much of Golden Axe 2‘s “Dragon’s Throat Cave” upon the first few seconds, but differs in it’s gritty-yet-inspiring melody. (In fact, I love all the “Mines” variations on this soundtrack due to the same underlying theme)

“Temple A” starts really bringing some fun and faster-paced rhythm, while “Worm” plays with percussive hodge-podge that breaks things up and might leave you scratching your head, wondering where it came from. “City of Gold” brings it all back to a gritty and dramatic feel, with heavy beats and bass that start giving you that impending sense of doom lingering just above your head in the enclosed spaces you’re exploring.

This is further made clear with “Boss 2”, with a harder bassline and more emergent rhythm that should be indicative of any good boss theme. Again, impending doom is staring you in the face and ever beat denotes a move you make that may or may not end your life.

Of course, it’s all negated by “Lobby” immediately following, as if you say “Hey, good on you for beating that boss. Now you get to wait in line to move forward.”, complete with a combination pop/jazz beat that you’d expect to find standing in a queue waiting for your life to roll on. Everyone’s life should come with a pre-composed jingle as you wait to move onto the next phase of existence.

From here on, many of the other tracks in the soundtrack are similar variations on one-another. “Mines Dim” is a slower, even darker and more foreboding version of the “Mines…” tracks. However, it still manages to have a lighter melody layered within it that gives an air of wonder and almost beauty to the concept of digging through dirty caves for treasure. Take it all in and savor the view. “Deathmatch” is surprisingly more upbeat than you’d expect and Mr. Suhrke seems to have a bit more fun with it than the title would leave you to believe, with changing tempo and uplifting synth work that pushes you forward.

And may I say that, having a track called “Haunted Castle” really caught my eye. If this wasn’t meant to be inspired by older Castlevania and Addams Family games, I really don’t know what to tell you. Imagine walking into a haunted mansion, and your trek has a creepy-yet-kooky soundtrack to it. It will probably be this track.

The soundtrack itself wrap up with the full-length track “Turkish Coffee”, that features the fantastically talented duo of Shnabubula on piano and Gabe Terracciano’s excellent and energetic violin work. It’s a odd-yet-interesting break away from Suhkre’s synth work throughout the soundtrack, but it lends a very organic feel to wrap up the album nicely with a positive melody that polishes off things in a polished manner. (And props for the pizzicato work!)

The XBLA version of Spelunky most definitely has a very unique accompaniment of music to it with Eirik Suhrke’s work, but that’s not a bad thing. Breaking out of the mold of having 3-4 minute “songs” and condensing it into a cornucopia of short, concise tunes is an interesting change of pace that I found refreshing. It’s not a style for everyone, as it can come off sounding a bit random and almost chaotic, but it’s something not usually done and I commend the execution. Be sure to check out Mr. Suhrke’s personal site for downloads from the album, and spend a few Microsoft Points picking up Spelunky for Xbox Live Arcade for a challenging adventure with equally adventurous music!

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