Thursday, October 1, 2015

Soundtrack of the Month: October 2015

Trine is the epitome of fantasy soundtracks. The story of the game is nothing particularly special—three unlikely heroes are magically bound together through a mysterious artifact and must save the kingdom from an undead army—but the combination of great characters, pleasurable gameplay, exotic environments, and gorgeously fitting music are what make this game the gem that it is.

Ari Pulkkinen scores this mystical masterpiece. From the first note the listener is captivated by this wonderful world of fantasy. Trine is one of the few soundtracks that I was actually interested in purchasing before I was even into soundtracks. It made that much of an impact on me. Few soundtracks can rival it in my eyes, with the prominent exception of its sequel.

This feature comes a little over a month after the release of the third game in the Trine series. Trine 3 has received a lot of flack for various different reasons, but the music is not one of them. Sound design remains exceptionally strong throughout the series. I have yet to play the new game myself, but whether I'm disappointed or pleasantly surprised by the experience, I'm certain I'll be purchasing the soundtrack very soon thereafter.

Featured Tracks

Track 2: Academy Hallways – The song that greets the player as they set out on their journey, after completing the tutorial level. It sounds like what it is—the start of an adventure.

Track 4: Dragon Graveyard – The piece that stood out to me the most when first playing the game, and to put it simply, my favorite track. A gorgeous piece.

Track 16: Tower of Sarek – I don't know who Sarek is (aside from an apparent Star Trek character), but his tower is the final level of the game.

Purchase Trine (Original Soundtrack), on AriTunes, iTunes, or Amazon MP3.
Or listen to it for free on Spotify or YouTube.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Celeste is a 2D platformer video game by Matt Thorson and Noel Berry. It's about scaling a mountain, and was made in four days.

While Thorson has hit it big in recent years for developing TowerFall and its various versions, he's always been known in the indie gaming community as one of the masters of difficult 2D platformers. Even with TowerFall he created goals and achievements that only a handful of people could ever even think to attain. When Matt Makes a Game, you know to fear it.

You're an unnamed figure scaling a great mountain, level by level. You can move and jump, and also use a dash move that can serve as a double-jump. Partway through the game you find an upgrade that gives you a second dash, and thus a second double-jump. The levels are designed around these mechanics and others, such as wall-jumping and balloons that restore your ability to dash mid-air.

It's reminiscent of the tight, "get from point A to point B" platformers Thorson used to make. The difficulty is there, and the intelligent design is there. Unfortunately, the gameplay is somewhat flawed. Your character doesn't always dash in the direction you're pressing the keys, which can cause a good many deaths as the fault of the game and not the player. Berry coded the game, so I'm laying the fault on him. (Realistically, it was probably the program they used to code the game.)

I entered the game and was immediately reminded how much I suck at video games. I spent an embarrassing amount of time on just the first level because I couldn't entirely figure out how the mechanics worked. I beat the game in a solid half hour, but not before getting an ungodly death count of 333. (Seriously, though, a good number of them really weren't my fault. I swear!)

Celeste is a fun, tight platfromer that will challenge those good at the genre and infuriate those who aren't. I really enjoyed it. If you think it sounds like interesting, give it a shot. It's free on PC.

Playing this game made want to go back and play Matt Thorson's older games, such as MoneySeize and the Jumper series. Or perhaps I'll finally beat An Untitled Story on "Masterful" difficulty and then review it on my blog for the third time.

Play Celeste here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Soundtrack of the Month: September 2015

A TV series about a masked vigilante antihero is not an original concept. Far from it. However, very few concepts are unique nowadays without the liberties allowed by creative presentation. Daredevil may not be the first story of its genre, but it may just be the first story of its kind.

The soundtrack, scored by John Paesano, reflects and retains the brutally dark atmosphere and tone of Daredevil, while also reflecting the quality and passion put into the project to make it the extraordinary story that it is. The power resonated in the main theme alone, and sustained throughout the rest of the soundtrack, sets the bar of quality for the series. A bar that was reached, as no easy feat.

Daredevil is the first television series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to receive a soundtrack release. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter both feature remarkable soundtracks, composed by renowned composers Bear McCreary and Christopher Lennertz respectively, but of the three Daredevil stands on top. It truly is a crime, however, that these other soundtracks have not been released.

Featured Tracks

Track 1: Main Title – The main theme of the series, set to an equally majestic and artistic intro sequence.

Track 2: Fogwell's Gym – Like father, like son. Fogwell's Gym is where Matt Murdock trains to be Daredevil.

Track 10: Wilson Fisk – Easily the most multilayered villain of the Cinematic Universe. You will absolutely hate him. You will entirely sympathize with him. Then you will absolutely hate him again. I hope he doesn't kill me for including his name in this article.

Track 12: Avocados at Law – This song and scene remind me of all the great times I've had with my closest friends. It bears a feeling of nostalgia, as we're shown a memorable night from Matt and Foggy's past.

Purchase DAREDEVIL: Music from the Original Series on iTunes or Amazon MP3.
Or listen to it for free on Spotify or YouTube.

Remember, you can keep updated on what television series I'm currently watching on my Status page.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Series Review: The Office (U.S. Version)

This review is a lot more casual than my average review, as it was initially a Facebook status addressed to friends. It's a brief overview of my thoughts on the series, and it does not address the story, premise or characters in any detail.

I recently finished all nine seasons of the U.S. version of the sitcom The Office. When I started the show, my mindset was something along the lines of, "...What the heck am I watching?" As it turns out, I was watching what would eventually become a hilarious and amazing show that would bring me great enjoyment for nearly two months of binge-watching.

It's true, the show is pretty consistently stupid. It's full of crude humor and facepalm-worthy moments, but it's also full of quality humor, great one-liners and lovable characters. While it's designed so that you can watch most episodes without having seen the rest of the show, the subplots make it absolutely worth watching in order.

The Office does something that no other show I've seen has been able to successfully achieve. All of the characters have this perfect blend of being unrealistic for the sake of comedy, and being very believable and real. This is particularly apparent in the first few seasons, but it is noticeable throughout the series. Most similar shows completely butcher that attempted blend.

My personal favorite episode is "Niagra, Part 2". It's the only episode that I watched more than once before finishing the show. (I actually watched it thrice.) However, this episode will mean absolutely nothing to you without five seasons of build-up and context.

I realize the show's not for everyone. It can be very inappropriate, and I only recommend it to people who are not easily offended by crude humor. (Trust me, it can get bad.) If that's not a problem for you, I'd also like to point out that if you're really turned off by the first few episodes, stick around for a while. It very definitely gets better. Oh, and be prepared to cringe whenever the character Todd Packer comes around. If you think Michael Scott is bad... geez.

So yeah. There's my super short, not-very-in-depth review. It's a great show. Well, it's great when it's not being super stupid. Which, to be honest, does happen a lot. Still, I may have cried near the end. Like, legitimately cried. Because storytelling can be awesome.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Soundtrack of the Month: August 2015

Alone in the Dark is a complete piece of crap. It's an attempted reboot of a classic video game that pioneered the survival horror genre in the industry. While the original Alone in the Dark is a clever, well-designed piece of art, the 2008 reboot is the furthest thing you can get from that description. Its only real saving factor is its amazing soundtrack.

The music is composed by Olivier Derivière, and accompanied by Grammy award-winning choir The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices. It's everything the game is not: creative, well-designed, and actually rather scary. Its haunting themes will send a chill up your spine, which is something you cannot say about the game.

A fair amount of the soundtrack sounds rather like cues from a movie. This could be due in part to the game's attempt to adapt a television show-like format, in the form of episodes that you play through one at a time, that you can jump between. It was poorly implemented, and another reason why the game didn't deserve its soundtrack.

For a further elaboration on just why Alone in the Dark is an awful game, I encourage you to check out ProJared's review of the game. Caution: Alone in the Dark is rated Mature for blood and gore, strong language, and violence. Keep this in mind regarding the video, as the game and its reviewer are hardly censored.

Featured Tracks

Track 2: Edward Carnby – The protagonist is named Edward Carnby. He shouldn't be, but he is. One of many tracks to feature the game's main theme, "Shto Li".

Track 10: Crying New York – I could make a joke about New York crying about how bad the game is, but this really is a great track.

Track 18: Shto Li (A Cappella) – The Alone in the Dark theme, "Shto Li", shows up in many tracks. This track isolates the vocals into a bone-chilling a cappella piece.

Purchase Music From Alone In The Dark from Amazon or iTunes.
Or listen to it for free on YouTube.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Jeff Williams Interview

Jeff Williams is a critically-acclaimed composer who works primarily for the production company Rooster Teeth, and is known for scoring music for many of their various works including the webseries Red vs. Blue, RWBY, and X-Ray & Vav, along with the company's upcoming feature comedy Lazer Team. His daughter, Casey Lee Williams, is often involved with his works, and is the lead localist for the RWBY soundtrack.

I recently got the chance to ask Jeff a number of questions, and I am extremely grateful that he was willing to set aside a little bit of time to respond to them, even if the process was considerably rushed. I do feel rather bad for taking him away from his crazy busy projects. Enjoy the interview!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Soundtrack of the Month: July 2015

As the first year of the Soundtrack of the Month series comes to a close, I decided I would return to where it all started. Believe it or not, I wasn't always a soundtrack nerd. I liked instrumental music and a handful of soundtracks, but I really didn't think much of them at all. There was, however, one television series that came along and changed my mind entirely.

Doctor Who is an entirely unique concept and series. Most people either love it or hate it, with no middle ground. However, regardless of how you think of the series, there is one thing that has to be agreed upon unanimously: The music is awesome.

I remember my first time watching the Series 3 episode "Gridlock". It was an interesting premise that I won't describe due to potential spoilers, but I will say that there was a segment where the Doctor (the protagonist) was jumping between futuristic cars, and the most ridiculously cool music was playing. That was the very first time that Murray Gold's score made an impression on me, and it was far from the last.

While every Doctor Who soundtrack Gold scored since the revival of the series in 2005 has been filled with spectacular music and is equally worthy of being featured, I decided after much debate on Doctor Who Series 3, as it was this music that made me fall in love with soundtrack music, and I am forever in its debt.

Featured Tracks
Narrowing this list down to four tracks was ridiculously difficult. Series 3 introduced many new themes with many different styles, ranging from adventurous, to emotional, to terrifying. Enjoy some of the greatest melodies of the music industry.

Track 1: All the Strange, Strange Creatures – Originally intended as a minor sequence for a single episode, this track was chosen to score a trailer for the series, and thus became a classic and recurring theme.

Track 6: Boe – The Face of Boe is one of the more intriguing recurring characters of the show. Who is he really? What is he really? The answer may just have you on the floor laughing. This particularly emotional theme is a reprisal of a track from Series 2.

Track 15: The Doctor Forever – This is the song that made me fall in love with soundtracks, and it still holds a very special place in my heart. It eventually became known as the Tenth Doctor's theme.

Track 23: This is Gallifrey: Our Childhood, Our Home – This song is, to this day, my favorite track from any soundtrack, of any genre, for any kind of media. The soaring themes; the strong emotions; the majestic nostalgia; this is art.

Purchase the Doctor Who Series 3 soundtrack on Amazon or iTunes.
Or listen to it for free on Spotify or YouTube.

Bonus: In celebration of this series' anniversary, I put together a small YouTube playlist of various great soundtrack pieces. It contains tracks for soundtracks I've featured, soundtracks I may feature in the future, and soundtracks I will not feature for one of multiple reasons (none of which are bad music). You can check it out here.