Tag Archives: High Scores

High Scores: Firelink Make Punishing Metal Inspired By “Dark Souls”


Dark Souls
is a decade-old video game franchise celebrated for both its gothic aesthetic and its unforgiving, punishing gameplay. Basically, it’s the most metal series ever—though the games’ soundtracks are much more classical and choral than hard rock. Dark Souls fans are legion, and they are committed: expanding upon the game’s fantasy-world story, recreating in-game clothing and jewelry, and of course, starting Souls-themed bands.

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On the “Katana ZERO” Score, Synthwave Goes Neo-Noir


In recent years, nostalgia for the 1980s has taken a firm grasp over the American pop cultural imagination. But where most of these looks backward are fond—even celebratory—the video game Katana ZERO bucks that trend; it not only embraces ‘80s aesthetics, it recognizes what was really happening at the time. A mix of neo-noir and historic lessons unlearned, Katana ZERO (released last month on the Nintendo Switch and PC) puts players in the blood-soaked shoes of Zero: a bathrobe-clad, katana-wielding assassin searching for answers about his mysterious past. It’s not an easy feat, given all the woes with which he’s forced to reckon: incessant amnesia, internal recurring nightmares of past war crimes, and a potentially-lethal addiction to a time-looping drug that contorts his perception of time so as to render death nonexistent.

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High Scores: Yoann Laulan’s Ongoing, Jam-Centric “Dead Cells” Soundtrack

Dead Cells

Dead Cells, one of the biggest breakout indie games of 2018, is often described as a “Metroidvania” title: a portmanteau referring to games that recall unforgiving classic platformers like Metroid and Castlevania. But Dead Cells—which tasks players with escaping a sprawling, monster-infested prison island—is more psychedelic and whimsical in tone than either of those franchises. It’s also much more freewheeling. The randomized level structures and risk-reward gameplay ensures that no two playthroughs are the same. Each time the player character (a mysterious figure known only as the Prisoner) dies, they lose all their hard-won power-ups and must start over from the beginning. Continue reading

High Scores: Megan McDuffee’s “Hostile Takeover” Score Brims With ’80s Pride

Megan McDuffee

Megan McDuffee is a film and game composer, vocalist, and electronic music artist based in the Bay Area. At 32, she’s too young to remember much of the ’80s firsthand, but that hasn’t stopped her from developing a darkly moody, synth-driven aesthetic associated with forward-thinking bands from the Reagan era. “I’ve always loved ’80s music of all types,” she explains. “My favorite bands in high school were Depeche Mode and Oingo Boingo.” Continue reading

High Scores: Materia Collective’s Latest Comp Pays Homage to Game Title Themes


Materia Collective founder Sebastian Wolff doesn’t refer to his company as a record label. Fair enough. With over 150 releases to its name since its founding in 2015—including game music remixes and covers, original game soundtracks, and sprawling community-based compilations—Materia is more of a video game music avalanche.  Continue reading

High Scores: Jim Guthrie Goes Ambient Drone On Meditative “Below” Soundtrack

Below, High scores

At the start of the new roleplaying game Below, only two names come across the screen. One is Capybara, the Toronto studio that developed Below. The other name is Jim Guthrie. While Guthrie calls this a testament to the developer’s generosity, it’s also a nod to his status as one of the biggest composers in game music. Arriving in the wake of his acclaimed soundtracks for Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery and his collaborative work with JJ Ipsen on the Planet Coaster series, Guthrie’s Below score marks his most ambitious—and best—soundtrack project to date. Continue reading

High Scores: Daniel Caleb’s Weird, Wonderful “Semblance” Soundtrack


Semblance, the puzzle-platforming game, is all about feel: gelatinous physics mechanics, slowly-shifting color schemes, and beneath it all, interwoven threads of pastoral symbolism and sci-fi weirdness. Its unstated premise is abstract but familiar-feeling; a small-but-resourceful purple blob (that’s you!) must rid a space-forest of various neon-tinted invasive species. Being a good steward of cosmic nature proves a profoundly satisfying process. That’s due in no small part to the score, composed by 36-year-old Daniel Caleb Matthee (professionally known as Daniel Caleb), which plays an indispensable role in crafting these lasting impressions.  Continue reading

High Scores: Tim Shiel’s Revamped “The Gardens Between” Soundtrack

Tim Shiel, The Gardens Between

Melbourne, Australia-based composer Tim Shiel rarely takes a break from music. He is a radio DJ, runs the Spirit Level record label, and manages artists when he’s not creating his own music or spending time with his wife and kids, including a new daughter born earlier this month. And while he’s a relative newcomer to the field of scoring video games, Shiel is two for two in landing great projects. The first was a minimalist mobile game called Duet, where the player spins two orbs around objects that come toward them like Tetris blocks while Shiel’s steady trancelike electronic accompaniment—the bulk of it composed on Teenage Engineering’s charming handheld synthesizer/sampler, the OP-1—waxes and wanes.  Continue reading