For a number of years now the quality of music composed for video games franchises such as Halo, Call of Duty and Medal of Honor (and many others) has been improving steadily year-on-year until we have come to the point where full-sized orchestras are being used to record meaty scores and they are being composed by ever-more experienced game score composers and film composers. Although not a gamer myself, bringing up two small children has meant a certain level of exposure to video games, particularly video games for the Nintendo Wii gaming platform. de Blob is puzzle-type video game released by THQ in 2008 that is very child-friendly – and quite addictive for people of all ages. A large part of the game’s enjoyment is game developer Blue Tongue Entertainment’s in-house composer (and senior sound designer) John Guscott’s colourful and quirky score.
Guscott’s score for de Blob contains a wide variety of musical styles ranging from jazz and funk through to reggae. The game’s score benefits from a commitment early on in the game’s development to use live musicians for the music and members of the Australian jazz band The Bamboos play enthusiastically that adds life and energy to the gameplay. The score is based around a core group of instruments – drums, percussion, bass, electric guitar and keyboards (Hammond organ and electric piano) – with added “feature” instruments being added as and when they are required (e.g., flutes, clarinet, cuica). A 3-piece horn section is also extensively used. In all, over 20 musicians contributed to creating the various moods required for the various stages/levels in the game.
The gameplay itself is fairly simple. The monochromatic INKT Corporation has removed all colour from the land (including residents) and it is your job as de Blob to re-colour and re-animate the world. You are free to roll around to collect paint (of various colours) and by merely touching a building or object these are then coloured. Bit-by-bit the world comes alive and the evil Corporation is defeated. As the game tends only to involve de Blob rolling about various cityscapes collecting paint and painting (sounds quite boring right?), it can be argued that the music takes on a more important role, compared with more action-oriented games such as Medal of Honor, in keeping the game interesting. Guscott’s music definitely does this, being both upbeat and energetic. It is also remarkably addictive to listen to.
Players must choose a musical “mood” (e.g., funky, blissful, smooth, etc) and this music is then played throughout the level. What is so interesting with Guscott’s music is how it is altered with the progression of the game itself. At the beginning of the level, when the landscape is relatively colour free, the music is quite simple and sparse with only the basic melody of the “mood music” being heard. But as more and more colour is added, the character of the music changes: the tempo increases and more musical elements are added to fill out the orchestration. Also, each colour selected within the game has a musical element associated with it (e.g., electric guitar, trumpet, vocals, etc) and when de Blob colours any part of the landscape a short motif of the musical element is added to the base melody and the two are synced together seamlessly. In effect, the player takes control of the music and what is heard is directly as a result of gameplay choices.
The music featured on the album is upbeat and colourful and has an energy that translates well from the game to album. With all the various choices available in the game, all the various tempos and orchestrations together with all the possible “colour riffs” (upwards of 250), there are several hours of music in total available. What features on the album are the fully formed and extended versions of the various musical moods. The album itself begins with “The Blob Theme”, a catchy piece based around a groovy electric guitar riff and brass statements that have a street-wise and very self-confident air about them that gives the de Blob character an immediate – and very likeable – personality. Funky guitar, brass and the prominent use of a drum kit features throughout the score and giving the various moods different musical styles including funk (e.g., “The Funky Blob (Funky)”, “Into It (Righteous)” and “D.B. 606 (Euphoric)”), calypso (“Decor (Blissful)”), samba (“Un Pasado Lleno de Colores (Revolutionary)”) and reggae (“Dub Blob (Smooth)”). Highlights include the funky Hammond organ vibes of “The Funky Blob (Funky)” that has an energy that would brighten anyone’s day and the smooth calypso rhythms of “Decor (Blissful)”, with the use of the cuíca (Brazilian friction drum) and beautiful female vocal harmonies giving a soothing accompaniment to the gameplay (I do have to admit spending significant time with this mood because of its soothing qualities).
Each of the tracks featured on the album are self-contained pieces that all have their recommendations, though I find the first four or five tracks to be more listenable than the remaining cues, partly perhaps because of my familiarity with these mood pieces that feature early in the game and do not require unlocking. “Crescent Chroma City (Brazen)”, with it’s drunken march quality is my least favourite track (though it does liven up in the later half of the cue when the tempo increases and the music transforms to a more honky-tonk dynamic). John Guscott’s music for de Blob is full of excellent compositions that are played with enthusiasm and this makes for an enjoyable listen. It is difficult for me to be entirely sure, but I would say that each track can be enjoyed as a separate listening experience and not having played this game is unlikely to affect any enjoyment. A promotional score CD was given away with game pre-orders when purchased from specific retail outlets and was available to purchase as a download from the usual retailers. However, it appears to be currently unavailable and I would hope that it becomes available again soon.
- The Blob Theme (2:34)
- The Funky Blob (Funky) (3:05)
- Decor (Blissful) (3:22)
- Raydian Day (Unstoppable) (3:38)
- Dub Blob (Smooth) (2:56)
- Into It (Righteous) (3:34)
- D.B. 606 (Euphoric) (3:35)
- Splashback (Defiant) (3:36)
- Crescent Chroma City (Brazen) (4:14)
- Un Pasado Lleno de Colores (Revolutionary) (2:35)
- INKT Downfall (Fearless) (2:43)
Running Time: 35:57
THQ Inc. (2008)