Kenley Kristofferson


Tag: aquaria

VGM Wednesdays – “Fluffy Sweet” from Cloud

“Fluffy” from Cloud, by Vincent Diamante and released in 2005.

Have you ever put down a game after a few hours (or minutes) or play and thought, “man, that was just so beautiful?”  That’s Cloud.

I was exposed to this game at an IGDA meeting in Winnipeg about four years ago and it really stuck with me.  Noah Decter-Jackson of Complex Games was leading a small presentation about indie games and the industry around it and one of his examples of alternative gameplay was Cloud.  The wiki describes the game better than I ever could…

The game centers on a boy who dreams of flying while asleep in a hospital bed. The concept was partially based on lead designer Jenova Chen‘s childhood; he was often hospitalized for asthma and would daydream while alone in his room. Assuming the role of the boy, the player flies through a dream world and manipulates clouds to solve puzzles. The game was intended to spark emotions in the player that the video game industry usually ignored.

It’s about the experience and that’s what I love about indie games.  I’ve been replaying Bit Blot’Aquaria on the iPad and it’s been such a great time.  The colours are lush, the music in headphones is immersive… Indie games don’t shortchange you on the emotional part of the game and it never feels contrived or forced like in some big budget films or games.

Anyway, back to Cloud.  Episode 14 of Into the Score (my podcast on the in-depth study of video game music) tackled this game and features a great interview with the composer, Vincent Diamante.  What a great guy and very generous with this time.  Definitely check it out.  He’s scored thatgamecompany‘s fl0w, Flower and Journey.

What I love about the game’s score is that the melodic theme is heard first in “Title” often present, but with strange harmonies below it that pull the listener in a different direction.  The title really sets up the brightness and happy feel of theme, which leaves room for the composer to mess with it as the game progresses.  In the second track from the game’s OST, called “Just About Ready,” the theme comes in at about 0:32 and it sounds nice, but is then followed by (what I think is) the VI chord with an appoggiatura, betraying the happy expectation that you thought was coming.  This is what the whole game does 🙂

When we listen to “Fluffy Sweet,” we hear the theme of the game being elaborated and decorated through the harp and piano.  Then what he does (and this is lovely), he turns the theme into the rhythmic ostinato upon which these lush, colourful and vibrant chords sustain overtop, creating this juxtaposing texture of rhythmic-but-consonant and harmonic-but-dissonant.

So much love for this score.  The game is free, you can download it here.

See you soon!

VGM Wednesdays – “The Light”

“The Light” from Bit Blot’s Aquaria, released in 2007.

It is very rare in one’s life that they meet someone as creative and passionate about their art as Alec Holowka, one of the co-creators of Aquaria and head of the indie games studio, Infinite Ammo.  To meet someone who devotes every spare minute to art is really inspiring and he’s one of the two people that I know who can do that (the most-excellent Parker Campbell is the other).  I had the chance to have him on my show a few years back and the episode can be heard here.

Aquaria came out in 2007 as an indie game and was evolved by Alec Holowka and Derek Yu.  In a time where massive studios are using their armies of programmers and graphic artists to release larger-than-life games, it gives me profound happiness that two passionate human beings can make a game with the intent of telling a story and speaking to their audience and still be quite successful.

The game tells the story of Naija, a girl who is alone in a vast sea who seeks to uncover her past and explore the world beyond her home.  The game’s lush graphics, lovely voice acting, intuitive gameplay and evocative music make Aquaria more of an experience than the Metroidvania-style that sometimes gets lumped into.

“The Light” plays near the beginning of the game and really sets the tone: Polychordal ostinati, washes of strings on beautifully dissonant chords (both doubled in synth), pensive woodwind melodies (usually flute),  and a sort of pop chord progression and drumbeat that makes the whole seemingly orchestral setup very accessible to the player.

Buy this game and buy this soundtrack, please.  Your money will not be going to a relentless multi-national; but rather, two people who devote their lives to the medium and the art.