Division Cell is a minimalist puzzle game for iOS and Android platforms from new Finnish game studio Hyperspace Yard. The basic idea of the game is to transform asymmetric polygons into symmetrical shapes. In order to do this, the player must tap designated shape borders causing the shapes to change, hopefully making them symmetrical. What makes the game particularly infuriating is that changing one shape can affect other shapes and potentially undoing any good work done already. The entire audio for the game – including the soundtrack – has been created by game soundtrack production company, The Audio Grill.
The Audio Grill, made up of composers/audio designers David Burrows and Mike Daw, have created soundtracks for over 50 games for various platforms. Trying to find a specific “sound” for Division Cell, a general spec of “Gorgio Moroder meets Philip Glass” was the composers’ starting point. With the game itself having a strong rhythmic element, this was a hook upon which to hang a soundtrack on and all the cues have a strong rhythm with catchy synth motifs being repeated over the top of interesting rhythms. It’s these little “nuggets” of an idea that are used as the basis of each track and over the course of the cue “variations on a theme (nugget)” embellish the base idea with various additional percussive rhythms and/or complimentary synth motifs.
Burrows and Daw have a knack of defining a sound and then coming up with fun and interesting variations. A couple of tracks worth highlighting are the sparkling “Matriculation” with its bright synth pizzicato and “Kinaesthesia – In Game Edit” which features a catchy Tubular Bells-style riff. Immediately after this latter track, the album features a “radio edit” which offers the opportunity to ramp up the tempo and add a string-styled synths and drum kit percussion to “fill out” the sound (“Kinaesthesia – Radio Edit (Bonus Track)”). The 25-minute album passes in a most enjoyable fashion. However, one (small) fly in the ointment is the final album cue, “Reciprosquish”. Compared with the tracks before, this is surprisingly low-key with its relatively sparing use of the synths at the composers’ disposal. This makes for a rather flat finale to the album but is only a minor grumble.
The soundtrack of Division Cell is a great little album. The composers’ attempt to give each segment of the game a distinct character works admirably, with each one offering something different. Smartphone and tablet games tend to offer the ability to switch off the music as part of their game setting options and may use this option particularly if music is annoying. So there’s always the need for game music composers to write interesting music that is enjoyable enough to be heard again and again and again. The music for Division Cell has that listenability, offering a satisfying listening experience away from the game and I would imagine that it would not be switched off by many people playing the game. The Audio Grill’s soundtrack is available to listen to in full and purchase (for only £1 at the time of writing! Or more if you wish) on Bandcamp.
- Division Cell (2:10)
- Divisium (1:57)
- Dreamscape (3:47)
- Kinaesthesia – In Game Edit (2:43)
- Kinaesthesia – Radio Edit (Bonus Track) (2:21)
- Matriculation (2:50)
- Quasar (3:18)
- Reciprosquish (4:48)
Running Time: 23:57
The Audio Grill (2013)