February game soundtrack roundup

Settle in for some good listening with the latest and greatest videogame sounds.

Friends, 2017 has hit the ground running. A season which is often something of a lull for the games industry has become a veritable torrent of new releases, and it already looks as though this year might challenge last year for sheer number of games worth playing. Let’s take a moment to sift through this month’s game releases--big and small alike--and listen to some excellent tunes.

This month saw the release of A House of Many Doors, an “exploration RPG” by Pixel Trickery Games that takes inspiration from titles like Sunless Sea and FTL. Evidently Sunless Sea developer Failbetter Games offered a bit of assistance with House’s development, and so the games are much alike aesthetically and systemically. If you’ve plumbed the depths of Sunless Sea and are restless with anticipation for Sunless Skies, A House of Many Doors might be a good thing to tide you over. The score, by composer Zach Beever, is appropriately gloomy and definitely worth a listen.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

Another indie game released this month was Husk, a first-person survival horror title from Polish team UndeadScout. The game takes place in a town called “Shivercliff,” so I think it’s fair to say that it wears its Silent Hill influence on its sleeve. It’s probably hard to release a first-person horror game within a month of Resident Evil 7, so I feel for the devs on this one. The soundtrack, by composer Arkadiusz Reikowski, definitely cribs a bit from Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka’s playbook--which is a good thing. If you’re looking for some creepy ambient tunes, give this one a listen.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

Have you played all the Dark Souls games and still want more? Are you desperate for Team Ninja to turn their luck around? Do you wish that Tom Cruise’s The Last Samurai had more demons in it? Well, Nioh arrived this month to sate all those desires. It’s been called a “Souls clone” and a “Souls-like,” but though it seems to be heavily derivative, most agree that it’s well enough put together that those concerns can be brushed aside. Is this the birth of a new genre? Only time will tell. Nioh’s score is by Yugo Kanno, whose discography is mostly anime (think Psycho-Pass and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure), and it’s absolutely worth checking out--though if you want it in its entirety, you’ll have to import a physical copy from Japan. Bummer.

Listen: YouTube (partial) Buy: CDJapan (import, physical)

Back to indie games for a moment for a look at Splasher, a side-scrolling platformer that looks a bit like Super Meat Boy got a bit of Portal 2’s puzzly bits mixed in and a coat of paint straight out of Rayman. If you like games where you move fast and die often, Splasher looks up your alley. The soundtrack, by composers David Boitier and Aymeric Schwartz, is mostly electronica, with some excellent beats and a few wubs and dubs thrown in there for good measure. I quite enjoy it--have a listen!

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

The soundtrack to the indie “parallel puzzler” Semispheres is one of the chillest collections of ambient music I’ve come across since I started doing these roundups. Do you need some tunes to meditate to? Are you a licensed masseuse looking for a sound to put your clients at ease before you go to work on them? Look no further than Siddhartha Barnhoorn’s soundtrack to Semispheres. You should probably light some incense while listening to this album, or at least crank up your aromatherapy diffuser.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

Often, the soundtracks for mobile games--especially card-based, gacha-style mobile games--aren’t worth including in these roundups. That’s emphatically not the case with the OST for Chief Puzzle Officer, as it’s scored by Dale North, former OC ReMixer and recent collaborator with Scarlet Moon Records. North’s stuff is always a delight to listen to, as he gets inspiration from game composers of many different styles. Puzzle Officer’s soundtrack is a combination of orchestral arrangements and electronic beats, and is definitely worth a listen.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

I’ve seen a lot of people on my Twitter feed really digging deep into For Honor, Ubisoft’s latest bit of historical fan-fiction, which lets you join up with pals to play knights, vikings, and samurai. I’m more of a cowboys guy myself, but I guess all those six-shooters might cause some balance issues. Our own Steven Strom enjoyed it a fair bit, and it sounds as though considerable complexity lies buried within the game’s combat. The score, by composers Saunder Jurriaans and Danny Bensi, is heavy on the martial drum beats. Kudos as always to Ubisoft’s music publishing arm, UBILOUD, for putting this stuff up on YouTube in an official capacity.

Listen: YouTube Buy: iTunes - Amazon

The superb Night in the Woods doesn’t have an official soundtrack release yet, but you can whet your appetite with this little sample that composer (and programmer!) Alec Holowka whipped up early in the game’s development. Holowka’s Bandcamp page is full up with his other compositions, so we can expect the NITW soundtrack to appear when it’s good and ready. In the meantime, we’ll just have to eat some pizza and go play on some power lines.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

Halo Wars 2 released this month, to the great relief of the six Halo Wars fans and anyone with a Master Chief tattoo. Jokes aside, there aren’t many real-time strategy games built from the ground up for a console audience, and it’s nice that the folks at Microsoft (and Creative Assemble, and 343 Industries) are trying to serve that niche demographic. The game’s score is perfectly serviceable, though perhaps not as iconic as Marty O’Donnell’s score for the original Halo games. If you’ve fallen for it, though, it has gotten an official release through your usual online retailers.

Buy: Amazon - iTunes

The end of the month will see the release of Torment: Tides of Numenera, the long-awaited follow-up to Planescape: Torment, which people keep telling me is one of the best-written games of all time and kicking me out of their book groups for not having played. There’s no telling yet whether composer Mark Morgan’s score will see an official release outside of the game’s crowd-funding campaign, but you can pop over to their official site if you’d like to buy one in the form of a “pledge.”

Buy: Official Site

I was really looking forward to the soundtrack to Horizon Zero Dawn, but it looks as though there aren’t plans for an official release yet--likewise for Sniper Elite 4, though that one’s a little less surprising.

That wraps up this month’s roundup! Next month sees the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nier: Automata, and Mass Effect: Andromeda--and more, besides! I’ll be back at the end of March to point you towards all the good stuff.