Spooktober 2018 Entry #10 – Previous Entry: Sheltered // Next Entry: Little Nightmares
Last October, we kept things a bit… generic.
It was literally all titles that screamed horror, as opposed to titles that lean more towards abstract forms of horror. Isolation, insanity, reality; Those kinds of things have been showcased here already, with titles like Sheltered, Darkest Dungeon, and Knee Deep, and now we get to showcase the fun with Crypt of The Necrodancer.
This was the debut title from Brace Yourself Games, a primarily Canadian studio who rose to unbelievable fame upon the release of today’s showcased title, a rogue-like rhythm-action title. Since its release, there have been about four million people praising the game up and down for its innovative mechanics, and here? We’re going to praise something else entirely.
Now I could bang on and on about the gameplay, about how it’s inventive and brilliant and there’s a massive sense of accomplishment whenever you manage to time your attacks and movements with the song itself. I could even talk about how “The Bard” welcomes an entirely different form of play for those who don’t want to bother with timing. Instead let’s talk about its most prominent feature: The soundtrack.
Composed by one Danny Baranowsky, an artist behind several other indie titles such as Desktop Dungeons, The Binding of Issac, and Super Meat Boy, the base soundtrack of Crypt of The Necrodancer features an hour of head-bouncing, EDM-inspired, “It’s-All-Gone-Pete-Tong” beats. It also serves as Baranowsky’s magnum opus, as there is possibly nothing else like it around. From the moment you load the game up, you’re treated to “Mausoleum Mash”, a track that slowly ascends and descends into a vibrant tune that’ll have you shuffling your bony white ass across an imaginary dance floor.
That’s only a taste of what’s to come, as “Mausoleum Mash” also serves as the song for World 1-3, with many other brilliant tracks to follow. What really makes the soundtrack pop out more than the usual slew of indie titles with hypnotic songs is how easily Baranowsky makes every song unique to the area and the progression. It’s because the game is built around the soundtrack instead of vice versa, obviously, but let’s look further.
Take the visuals, for example. Seemingly drab, or not stated enough to be something you’ll remember. Pop the cassette into the player and play “Disco Descent” or “Portabellohead” however, and pay attention to your movements. Sway with the music, and suddenly? Bam! Your combo’s up, the arena’s opening up, and the ground is adorned with turquoise and purple lights as you hop into the next fight, paying attention to the surroundings, and the music for your journey fits.
What’s also impressive to listen to is the subtle genre-shifts the soundtrack hosts. With Zone 1-1 to 1-3, the caverns echo this uplifting, marching band-esque percussion that is backed by what sounds like synth-infused brass instruments piercing through it all, as if Baranowsky took inspiration from “Lift Yr. Skinny Fists”. “Mausoleum Mash” is where things get heated up a notch, as raw aggression comes through sonically as well as with new monsters.
Flipping over to Side B/Zone 2, and suddenly we’re in reggae town. Moss surrounds the player, and the sounds become more soulful, more soothing, stickier and more restrained. Nothing ever pops out from the music, but then, it’s not meant to. Nothing is supposed to sound clear here, it’s meant to vibrate and punctuate how damp this area is in general.
That’s just an example, and each world has their own way of incorporating different genres into their sound, with Zone’s 3 and 4 becoming more confronting and upfront than their earlier counterparts. They bring more immediacy, even with Zone 3’s “Cold” parts of the song, that retain the same ideas from Zone 2. You could go on for hours about the intricacies of Danny B’s work, along with YouTuber FamilyJules7x, AKA Jules Conroy contributing to the “Hot” versions of Zone 3, but we’re not. There’s something else to discuss.
Yes, while this soundtrack is nothing short of superb, there may be the odd person who hates the sound and doesn’t like the work that Danny B put in. It’s possible, and it seems that Danny B and Brace Yourself also had this in mind, as Crypt of The Necrodancer doesn’t just have one soundtrack, and instead hosts six– SIX different soundtracks for you to enjoy. Pffffffffft.
First up, you have the heavier EDM-inspired beats from A_Rival, where everything becomes more of a garbled festival of noise, with visceral clashes and clangs overtaking everything. After that, Jules Conroy returns with an entire remix of the soundtrack dedicated to a more metal audience, as the world and its inhabitants become gutter-punks of grisly destruction.
Then comes legendary chiptune artist Jake Kaufman/”Virt”, the composer behind many a Game Boy Color game (and Shovel Knight), who brings forth something more in-line with Danny B’s work than a complete overhaul of sonic intentions. Then comes Girlfriend Records, bringing together various artists to do more classy and disco-inspired works to the soundtrack.
The final two are the community of OverClocked ReMix, which actually served as a former stomping ground for Baranowsky and Jake Kaufman back in the day, and Chipzel, another prominent figure in the genre of chiptune. Chipzel’s work actually differentiates slightly from Kaufman’s similar chiptune style, however, with her remixes being more watered down, and are more inspired by the original Game Boy than anything else. That isn’t meant to be an insult, however, it is merely another angle from which you can observe this magnificent blueprint.
What if that still isn’t enough? Or what if you’re bored with the five-and-a-half hours of audio entertainment provided? Well, it’s simple: You add your own songs, provided you’re on the PC at least. So if you’ve ever wanted to blast away dragons and minotaurs to the power of “The Touch” by Stan Bush, but can’t stand the Shadow Warrior reboot, then this is always another great option.
The smartarse reasoning behind this Op-Ed could be that because you can add any song ever made to play with on Crypt of The Necrodancer, then it is technically the greatest soundtrack ever made. Before there needed to be a solid base to build on, and the tag team of Brace Yourself and Danny Baranowsky provided more than a solid base to build on. They provided a shining definition.
The soundtrack of Crypt is superb, it’s sublime, it’s ear-blasting, it’s a brilliant, intricate, shining highlight of video game music, and the six versions of the same soundtrack manage to be nothing short of unique brilliance. It just also helps that the game itself is equally superb, and that’s something that doesn’t need an explanation at all.
Go play it. Go listen to it.
Owner of the largest collection of indie games in the Western Hemisphere, and TimeSplitters’ biggest fanboy.