Tag Archives: Video Game Soundtracks

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

On Solo Debut, “Celeste” Composer Lena Raine Makes Personal Struggle Her Muse


Photography by Sarah Cass

By all appearances, Lena Raine had a very good 2018. The composer delivered one of the best game soundtracks of the year—her score for breakout indie platformer Celeste netted unanimous year-end accolades for its emotionally intense, irresistibly catchy tunes. As the year came to a close, she experienced a career high point, performing with the legendary film composer Hans Zimmer in December at the Games Awards in Los Angeles. 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

Julian Glander’s Self-Built Video Game “Art Sqool” Teaches Masterclass In DIY Absurdity


Animation by Julian Glander

Julian Glander is a master of calibration: He knows just how far to go before something he’s making becomes too much. The 3D animator and self-proclaimed “art guy” recently released Art Sqool, a game in which a bespectacled freshman completes homework assignments for an A.I. neural network—who serves as a disembodied faculty advisor—on a campus of floating islands, pastel structures, and lumpy flora, aloft in a purple cloud sea. Art Sqool is an objectively beautiful game, made more so by the serene and captivating soundtrack, which happens to be Glander’s first: it was recorded entirely by himself in one day. 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

Inside Christopher Larkin’s Darkly Elegant “Hollow Knight” Score

Christopher Larkin

Anyone who’s ever dabbled in the Dark Souls franchise will notice some striking similarities upon firing up Hollow Knight. Between the game’s ominous, gothic overtones and punishing difficulty (it’s not uncommon for players to lose all of their hard-earned currency in mere seconds) the debut platformer from Australian game studio Team Cherry often feels like the side-scroller answer to Dark Souls’ demanding rabbit hole of intensity and commitment. But where Team Cherry’s Kickstarter triumph carves out its own identity is in its surprisingly approachable tone; taking place in the magnified insect kingdom of Hallownest, Hollow Knight balances its darkened lore and ruthless gameplay with lighthearted, charming characters and an ever-flowing overworld, creating a surprisingly accessible adventure out of the same brutal mechanics that often scare players away.  Continue reading