And just like that it’s the end of 2016. I realize I wasn’t as active as I’d purported I’d be at the beginning of the year. I owe that to moving into a new house though. The transition has eaten up a lot of my valuable time. Not only that but I’ve spent much of my autumn beginning a new book and when I do that, I tend to dig in deep and not come up for air. That being said, I’d like to change the topic back to what this blog post is really all about: my top ten picks for video game soundtracks this year!
Several of you readers know I’m a sucker for video game soundtracks. I’ve always been a fan of film scores and in the past few years have developed a love for these equally arresting and inspiring albums. I didn’t want to break with tradition so here I am at midnight on the 30th/31st of December to share with you the soundtracks writers who love music should buy. But why you ask? Keep reading and you’ll see…
#10: Dead Secret Soundtrack by Ben Prunty
Why: The Dead Secret soundtrack begins with jazz-inspired flavors and some Asian influences to fit into the storyline. Because it’s a murder mystery, there’s an air of suspicion and curiosity in each piece, growing darker and darker as the game progresses. However, it’s the tracks that are most ambient that stood out most to me. In particular, WOODCUTTER (the theme of the antagonist) is one of the most bone-chilling on the soundtrack and inspires fear from its minimalist drumming. Another is “Permanently Altered” which I listened to several times while working on my latest novel. I recommend this to anyone working on crime or noir fiction, or perhaps something historical in the 1920-1950’s. Track picks: WOODCUTTER, Kwaidan, Permanently Altered, What were you up to?
At least once in your lifetime, you’ve put on the radio in your car or on the internet or your digital music player and went about your daily activities. Somewhere within the mix of songs you listened to, there came that one song, the one that made you stop and listen in awe to it, one that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It impressed you, thrilled you, made you want to listen to it over and over again. Years ago, I found that feeling with Austin Wintory’s soundtrack to the game “Journey”. It was plaintive, arresting, and called to a deeper part of me. Now, I’ve found a similar impression again with Wintory’s soundtrack to the game “Abzu”.
I didn’t get to try Playdead’s first game, Limbo, until well after it had released. I still fell head-over-heels in love with it. Everything from the monochromatic environments, to the ambient soundtrack, to the simple side-scrolling puzzle platforming… Limbo remained one of my favorite games to play for several years and the Limbo soundtrack, composed by Martin Stig Andersen, is my absolute favorite writing music (even though there are only six tracks). When I heard that Playdead was developing a new game, the mysterious INSIDE, I knew it would be just as atmospheric and somehow even more intense than its predecessor. I couldn’t have been more right.
Utilizing splashes of red here and there while keeping mostly to greyscale, the game features an unnamed boy as he creeps through woods, farmyards, water, and industrial locations, all while hiding and being chased by an unknown faction of people. The game hooks you early on by showing this group taking a van full of people away in the rain to an undisclosed location. You’re then sent into a pulse-pounding chase as you’re spotted and forced to flee, dodging gunfire and snarling dogs.
This week, I’ve fallen in love with a new and beautiful game called Unravel by Electronic Arts. In it, you play as a little anthropomorphic yarn boy named Yarny, who traverses a picturesque world of fond memories. There are lots of violent video games on the market right now, so it always makes me feel warm and tingly inside when I’m introduced to something that is based around a unique and more wonderful idea. The idea in Unravel? To reconnect, whether it be with the past, or with people you’ve lost touch with or with places you’ve begun to forget about. It’s a magical and refreshing experience, one that I haven’t felt since I first played Journey.
Unravel’s soundtrack is a collaboration by two Swedish musicians, Henrik Oja and Frida Johansson. The nostalgia present in each track, blended with the stunning visuals of the game makes one feel as though they are really running along the seaside, exploring mountains, and sailing through the treetops. Not only is it immersive, it also easily makes you feel lost inside each narrative that Yarny traverses. Today I’ll be sharing four songs from the unofficial Unravel soundtrack and writing what I see when I listen to them.
Some of you probably caught my Horror-FAVE Friday blog featuring Lisa: The Painful RPG and all the things about it that make it an outstanding game. I briefly touched on the music composed by the game’s creator, Austin Jorgensen, or as he prefers to call himself, Widdly 2 Diddly. There is a very eclectic mix of tunes in Lisa that call for more atmospheric, scene-setting pieces, as well as outright pumped up beats. Since the game contains a lot of RPG battles, there’s a fair amount of dubstep, hiphoppy, rap, and rock type pieces and even some that are a bit more undefinable. The premise of the game revolves around Brad, who is living in a post-apocalyptic land called Olathe with some of his childhood friends. All of the women and children of the world have vanished in something known as the Flash. Brad happens upon a baby girl who he names Buddy and takes it upon himself to raise her and protect her. When she’s taken from him, he vows to get her back using any means necessary. Thus begins his humorous, depressing, hopeful, and often depraved journey.
Imagine you live in a world where all of the women and children have ceased to exist, where the land is teeming with gangs of men, some depraved, some violent, others just trying to find a place to hide, and remember the world the way it used to be. This is the world of Olathe in Lisa: The Painful RPG, created by Dingaling Productions a.k.a. Austin Jorgensen. In the game, we follow the story of Brad Armstrong, a down on his luck ex-martial arts teacher who has survived in the post-apocalyptic land of Olathe alongside his childhood friends. One day, he comes across a baby lying on the ground, but not just any baby; a baby girl. Realizing the implications of finding the only girl left in their world (and trying to atone for a mournful event in his past that involves his loathsome father, Brad brings the girl home and raises her. Eventually, word gets out about Buddy (the girl’s name) and she is taken from Brad. He sets out to find her and therein begins the strange, beautiful, and often times, perverted story of his quest to find her.
Summer is coming up mighty fast here in Maine (although it did just snow in Presque Isle a few days ago. True story.). The thing of it is…as we start to have warmer and warmer weather, I find myself craving the need to work on my Night Time, Dotted Line sequel. Night Time, Dotted Line was a comedic novel I wrote a couple years ago involving two very different and complete strangers who embarked on a cross-country road trip together. It’s a novel of friendship and through the strange situations that these characters find themselves in, they ultimately learn that dealing with their own issues alone is causing more pain and that they need to open up and trust others. Wow. That doesn’t sound very comedic at all. But believe me, it is. When I finished the book, I knew that their story hadn’t been told completely; there needed to be one more book. And so, over the last couple years, I’ve been developing the story or how I’d like the story to go. Music is a HUGE inspiration for this. Recently, I played a wonderful game by Tim Schafer called “Broken Age”. Not only was I blown away by the art direction and story, but the music, composed by Peter McConnell, especially called to me. It reminded me of my characters and of the journey they still need to take.
It was hot in the city that night; hotter than any day I could remember. I was just closing up the office. It had been a hell of a day and all I could think about was settling into bed and finally catching some sleep. Just then, there was an unexpected knock at my door. I called for them to come in. And there, standing in my door, was the most handsome pizza I’d ever seen in my entire life.
Really though. I think I’ve found my new favorite pizza. Pear Bacon pizza sounds kind of strange, yes, I’ll admit. But, it is mouth-watering, sweet and savory and perfect in every possible way. This sauce-less, artisan pizza was probably one of my favorite literary Cooking Adventures to date. I’ve made it three times now!
Owing to the fact that this was the first time I’d made it, there were a few hitches along the way. In a tribute to Raymond Chandler’s “Farewell My Lovely”, I sauntered into the kitchen and took up my knife and rolling pin, ready to investigate this decadent pie.
Check out the full instructions below on how to craft this Pear Bacon Pizza for yourselves! You can find the original recipe that inspired this one over at Recipe Runner!
I made a list not too long ago of my top ten video game soundtracks. I missed one. I missed a major one. I was so busy concentrating on newer games that I forgot one of my absolute favorites from my childhood. Legend of Dragoon is a brilliant RPG in a similar vein as Final Fantasy that revolves around a war between humans, a race called the Winglies, and, well, dragons. Think Game of Thrones: Young Adult edition. Though the game did deal with some pretty dark material here and there, it fast became a cult favorite for thousands. Its characters, story, and music have stayed with me for years. Occasionally, I’ll break it out and play it on the PS3 just to relive the adventures of Dart, Shana, Albert, Rose and the others.
In the dark and winter-ruled city, I had grown mad from the snow, and the darkness and the cold. I needed to feel refreshed, needed some hint of spring to remind me that the world needn’t be constantly swept in shadows…
Ahem. Well…that is…I decided to leap into action and make some lovely grilled fish tacos on a dreary March day a few weeks ago and they were SUPERB! In a tribute to Frank Miller’s Sin City graphic novels, I donned some makeup, slicked my hair back, and got to work in the kitchen. I dealt with a rather unforgiving lime that was not in the mood to be juiced, some frozen fish trapped in a bag that wouldn’t open, and of course, battled the all powerful grill pan as it viciously spat oil at me.
All in a days work though. The fish tacos were wonderful.