Featured, Game Music, Reviews

Wish Granted! LittleBIGPlanet 3 Soundtrack Exists! (Review)

April 29, 2015 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Wish Granted! LittleBIGPlanet 3 Soundtrack Exists! (Review)on Twitter

At the tail end of 2014, when we looked back on the year in our annual OSVOSTOTY celebrations, I lamented that the soundtrack to LittleBIGPlanet 3 might not see the light of day. The game was new to the market at the time, and while it was (and still is) suffering from some technical issues, its aesthetics were as brilliant as previous entries in the series. The music was more eclectic than ever, due in large part to the wide array of musicians taken on for the game’s single-player campaign levels.

Lucky for me, a soundtrack did finally arrive. It wasn’t an exhaustive collection of the game’s music, but it was a full 70 minutes of music, on iTunes, for nine bucks. I wasn’t going to pass that up.

After the jump, I’m going to pinpoint, as best as I can, what makes me love this music so much. Hint: much of it is thanks to a wonderful lady whose name starts with a W.

…Winifred Phillips. Godsend to game music.

The 17-track digital-only iTunes release for LBP3 features 12 artists. That makes for a ratio of, basically, one track per artist. Given the hodge-podge nature of the entire LBP franchise, reinforced by its bevy of high-end community levels (let’s ignore all those Slenderman and FNAF parody levels, eh?), it all makes sense. But Sumo Digital, Sony, and the like were smart enough to hire on Winifred Phillips for three full-length pieces. Given the quality of her work in LBP2, as well as the Toy Story DLC for the LBP franchise, it was a smart move.

We’ve already announced on the site that Ms. Phillips won a “Hollywood Music in Media Award” (HMMA) for her ingenious work “The Ziggurat Theme.” This is track 10 on the OST, and it was the first song I heard from the game — I scouted it out before even playing the game. Here’s the deal: contrapuntal / Bach-invention-esque vocals (small choir style, all female); harps, guitars, auxiliary percussion; harmonies and modal shifts that ever so slightly touch the Mediterranean / Arabic sound suggested by the song title. If someone commissioned you, dear reader, to use the elements listed above to create some kind of ethereal neo-Baroque chorale with a touch of Middle Eastern flair, could you do it? I know I couldn’t. And while I believe many composers could put forth a valiant effort with those conditions, my suspicion is that Ms. Phillips wasn’t given those ingredients to work with up-front. She dreamed the mixture up in her own mind and made it work. Brilliantly. It’s so good!

Now, here’s the crazy part: despite receiving the award, I’m not convinced this song was her best work on LBP3. No, while I think it’s great, I think she wrote something even better, though it’s not as impressive on a technical level. Probably one of the most-heard pieces in-game, since you must always pass through this “hub” area, “The Pod” is too pretty for words. Pizzicato strings are your friend. Brilliant acoustic instruments with a touch of reverb? Also your friend. Cloud-like touches of woodwinds and vocals? BFFs, y’all. For life. This song reminded me of some of the best music from Kirby’s Epic Yarn … only better. If you want it in detailed breakdown, Ms. Phillips posted the song in five separate layers on her SoundCloud page. If you’re feeling studious, check it out there. Else, the integrated version awaits you on iTunes.

Winifred’s third track for the OST, which is also her longest, is the level music for “Stitchem Manor.” A solid six minutes of audio, this one relies on simple melodies, minor and diminished chords, and a whole lot of auxiliary percussion and effect to create a nice, creepy vibe. Not too creepy, though. Just enough to let you know that something might be coming. It’s still winsome and fun.

Now, before I highlight the rest of LittleBIGPlanet 3‘s soundtrack, I want to stop here again and say that the soundtrack is not exhaustive. I don’t know what an exhaustive list would look like, but I do know that I’ve heard music in-game that I’ve not found here, and that I’ve not heard in other LBP titles either. One wonders which composers didn’t have any music featured, as well as which composers had some representation on this soundtrack, but some of their songs didn’t “make the cut.” If anyone can note concrete examples in the comments, they are welcomed.

The next song I want to look at is a demonstration of two facts: 1) the LBP franchise, while it has changed hands across development studios, remains committed to elevating “fan content” to something more; 2) people with strong musical talents can, if they want to (and it takes thousands of hours of work!), make an impact in an area they desire to. Yes, I am talking about Smooth McGroove‘s arrangement of “Secret Gardens.”

Smooth McGroove has had multiple volumes of his catchy multi-layered a capella arrangements released over at Loudr. But “Secret Gardens” isn’t part of a volume of covers… no! While McGroove’s new track is indeed an arrangement of the beloved theme to the first LittleBIGPlanet, originally written by Mat Clark and Kenneth Young, this “bonus track” at the end isn’t here just to entertain game music fans. If you play LBP3, guess what version of “Secret Gardens” you’ll hear within the game? Yeah. Now that’s the real deal, my friends.

Based on the video’s Brady-Bunch-esque portrait squares, we can see that a minimum of 13 separate tracks were layered together to create this track. Sometimes there are more percussion lines that Mr. McGroove chooses not to display. In any case, you will definitely find his lovely black cat in there at some point.

Come on now, listen to that! How cool is that? It’s so … smooth. It has so much … groove! If the name fits, use it.

Okay, we’ve touched on the big highlights, the well-known artists, what have you. Let’s take a look at some of the other tracks. I won’t name all of them, but I went to make sure you understand that this eclectic mix isn’t a ball of perfection. You get some odd ones…

There’s a short “Introduction” track from David Poore. It’s suitable, bright and bouncy, fitting for the franchise. Paul Thomson takes on “Newton’s Theme” in track 3, and there’s this keyboard synth whose sound is like an organ married to a theremin. It’s … a weird sound. An early 20th-century science kind of sound. Which, really, fits Einstein more than Newton. But I’ll take it either way!

Arguably the worst part of the soundtrack is also the longest. The artist Emperor Machine wrote a piece called “Pinball of the Undead,” which appears in two forms, back-to-back, on the OST. The first version is 5 minutes long. Then, the “Dub” version, is another 8 minutes. So that’s 13 minutes total. And what do we hear? Basically, it’s minimalist EDM. I’m thankful for the handclaps in the “Dub” version, because they’re the only thing keeping the song alive for me. “Undead,” indeed. Maybe drop the “Un.” This song goes nowhere fast, and it’s just awful to listen to. In the context of the game? It’s fine! It does what it needs to do. But I wish the people who put this OST together dropped the loop, so we’d have 2.5 minutes and 4 minutes, respectively. Listening to the full OST is a chore simply because of these two back-to-back tracks.

What else? Let’s see… Chrome Canyon has an arrangement from Tschaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, “Waltz of the Flowers.” It’s super-wobbly-synthy. I’d have preferred a real orchestral recording in place of the circus music. Even in the context of the game, I found it a little irritating.

One of the better stage themes is Ugress’ “Steam Punk’d.” It doesn’t overstay its welcome at exactly 3 minutes’ length. It has a great, diverse palette of acoustic and electronic instrumentation. The melody is always moving somewhere. This is simply a smart track. We find a lot like these in the game, though somehow, not all of them made it to the OST.

Si Begg has some back-to-back track action, but here it is far better than Pinball of the Undead. These songs are “Popit Academy” (Term 1 and Term 2). The tutorials in the LBP franchise are of paramount importance, especially for anyone hoping to create a level of their own. You’ll get nowhere without sinking a solid five hours or more in understanding all of the gadgets and the phyics. So it’s pretty important that when you get your learn on, the music isn’t irritating. “Popit Academy” is a special tutorial in the game that plays out like its own entire level, so it was fitting that special music was composed for it. I like these songs, plain and simple.

All told, I think the album met its set value of nine dollars with any two of the three Winifred Phillips tracks. Through in a third track, Smooth McGroove, and a host of other tracks (some admittedly better than others) from a bunch of composers, and I’d argue the soundtrack becomes insta-buy material for any LBP series fan, and a worthwhile purchase for all VGM aficionados. Again, should you want to pick it up, that link to the iTunes soundtrack for $8.99 is right here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.

« Next Post

Previous Post »

More like this Post