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Musicality

February 12, 2015

Dear Reader,

I’m going to start with one more “long time no see” kind of joke, but let’s just be real here; I’m clearly having a hard time keeping the blog updated while having a full time job and actually, you know, playing games.

Nevertheless, I hope you’ll stick with me as you can for these often only biweekly check ins.  I might not have the regularity I used to, but at least new posts can be like a nice surprise!

At any rate, I’ve been playing many of the same and a few new games recently, and immensely enjoying virtually all of them. I’ve been on an extremely lucky streak of quality games.  I know you’ve seen the list before, but let me reiterate it; every one of these games is worth your time and money:

Crypt of the Necrodancer

This War of Mine

Transistor

Escape Goat 2

Dungeon Defenders 2

I swear I haven’t been given any money by any of these game developers, despite my apparent zeal; I’m just so happy after what felt like such a drought of real innovation to have landed on all of these games that – while they’re not all COMPLETELY REVOLUTIONARY (Dungeon Defenders 2 is just a nice sequel to the first if you like that kind of game), they’re all quality and enjoyable.  I really recommend you get them as you can at whatever price you’re willing to play.

Of those games, two really stood out due to their musicality: Crypt of the Necrodancer and Transistor.  Both are heavily influenced by their music.  Sure, every game has a soundtrack, and some of them are really stunning.  In fact, let me make a plug (I wrote pug there at first and almost missed it – too much WoW?) for a good friend’s game music project: Syl of MMO Gypsy and Syp of Bio Break produce an excellent show called Battle Bards; if you’ve not looked into it before, I heartily recommend you do; the scope of their project – which delves into an often-experienced but little-reviewed portion of games – is truly impressive.  Check it out!

Anyway – back from that little tangent – both games rely heavily on their music.  In Crypt of the Necrodancer, the music itself is a core game mechanic; you move through a rogue-like world to the beat of the soundtrack, moving and attacking to the beat – or missing if you’re off of it.  If just that new-ish mechanic (at least in terms of being applied to a dungeon-crawling rogue-like) wasn’t enough, the actual quality and variety of the music really fulfills the game’s inherent promise: you’re going to get to “Deliver beatdowns to the beat.”

The songs are a lot of fun – pure and simple.  They’re fast-paced game techno music or low-key cool synth blues.  I know nothing about music, mind you, so those terms may be completely nonsensical, but that’s how it feels.  The boss levels, too, are uniquely fun; one is a conga line with a skipping beat that’s hard for old people like me to remember to avoid.  Another is a blues boss on a chessboard, and the third randomly-selected boss head bangs to heavy metal while shooting fire around the room.

Transistor, on the other hand, doesn’t integrate the music into its mechanics so much as into the core story, and wonderfully so.  The game itself is as beautifully artistic as Bastion was – and really, even more so.  They’ve captured a kind of dystopian film-noir art deco style (there I go again just mashing words together, but I think it’s pretty accurate) in the visual art, and the music – well.  The music is as beautiful as any game music I’ve heard, and the music is so well integrated into the plot that they’re essentially one and the same.  It’s truly fantastic.

Beyond the beautiful art and music of the game, the mechanics are super-solid. I’m sure by now there’s a million “best” strats and builds, but I just played around with the character builds and had fun.  The concept is that you get “programs” you can run both as main attacks, modifiers to other attacks, or as passive talents, so each new program you pick up actually adds a ton of modularity to your play style by adding a new potential core attack, a new potential modifier for every other core attack you have, and a new passive for your character.  It makes for a ton of great experimentation and variety of play.

So if you’re a fan of music and games, you really should without any doubt purchase and play both of these games.  Both deserve 10/10, if I was the kind of site to rank games like that.  But I’m not.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (not a game ranker)

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