COLONIES: NEOCIV – Milosz Jeziorski

Original Review by Alan RogersColonies - Neociv

Colonies: Neociv is a video game released by developers Twist-Ed Games for Xbox 360 in 2011. The game takes place in an idyllic colony, Neociv, where the peaceful existence is under threat. We follow Nessa, our buxom heroine, as she moves through a series of point-and-click puzzle games collecting information and picking off enemies in blaster battles. Surprisingly, the bureaucracy of corporate business seems to be a major target for the game as Nessa spends a lot of gameplay time trying to complete a TPS form in order to use an emergency exit. The game is relatively short (typically lasting 2 hours from start to finish) and features lots of still images and 2D gameplay peppered with extended 3D rendered graphics cut scenes. Colonies: Neociv is an Indie game available on the Xbox’s online Marketplace as a download (for the modest sum of £0.69) and isn’t as polished as many of the A-list games I’ve seen, but one aspect of the game that exceeds expectation is the score, written by New York-based composer Milosz Jeziorski.

Jeziorski has composed scores for a variety of media including short films, video games as well as feature films and he enjoys experimenting with traditional orchestration techniques and modern technology. And his score for Colonies: Neociv is excellent. The album opens with a top-notch main theme, “Colonies Theme”, a swashbuckling and thrillingly melodic piece that’s insanely hummable and full of a get-up-and-go attitude. Strings are embellished with some rock guitar and drum kit percussion that makes the theme a great start to the album. The following track, “Vengeance”, continues on with the feel established in “Colonies Theme” but this time the music emphasises deep percussion and subtle electric guitar before but it’s not long before the swashbuckling feel of the opening theme returns. The use of the music featured in “Vengeance” is a good example of how music is used generally in this game. As well as being featured in cut scenes where the player has little control over the gameplay, the music also doubles as a backdrop to the main gameplay. The music is interesting to listen to but does tend to be quite static. There’s an idea established in the track and it’s repeated for the rest of the track with slight variations in the orchestrations to add variety. This structure to the music makes each track an ideal support for a number of situations and the same music can appear in a number of places in the game. For example, the same piece can be found either in the shoot ‘em up elements of the game but also in the puzzle segments, where building tension is important.

There are lots of highlight tracks on the album – which runs to just over 20 minutes in length – and the majority of them are grounded in strong, repeating rhythms. Synths, strings, bass guitars and snare drums draw out tension in cues such as “Red Tape” and “Training Room” where, although there are similarities in the feel of the tracks, the music underscores very different scenes (a point-and-click search in order to fill out an administrative form in the former and learning how to use and control your weapons in the latter). Although maintaining the forward-moving momentum that’s established by the continued use of the regular rhythms, Jeziorski also gives the score a more intimate feel with the use of harp-like synths in cues such as “Greywater” and “Power Plant”. It’s at this point that there’s the appearance of a little niggling doubt as to how well the music works in some scenes. As mentioned earlier, some music appears at different points in the game supporting a variety of parts of the gameplay. The relatively low-key tone of “Power Plant”, for example, underscores the game both when Nessa is quietly searching for clues to advance the game but also when she’s picking off distant enemies with her blaster. Perhaps it’s being used to the more obvious mirroring of music with the on-screen action in films that’s raising this concern. Perhaps questioning “if the music works” or not isn’t the correct phraseology; rather it’s just a feeling of surprise seeing the same music being used in two different types of scene one after the other – scenes that would usually be scored differently in film or television. The bottom line though is that the music does seem to be appropriate in either case.

There are a few times in the score where the music tries to make obvious statements of intent, i.e., when the music follows the on-screen action. In “Famous Last Words” for example, solemn brass chords blare out giving a sense of loss and nobility to the demise of Nessa’s boyfriend. It’s a simple motif but very effective. At the other end of the score (and game), swelling strings and rock guitar rise in crescendo alongside a quickening rhythm of drums bringing the game to a dramatic cliff-hanging conclusion (“One Step Closer”). After this strong conclusion of the game’s score the album rounds off with the inclusion of a previously unreleased “bonus track”, “Transmission”, a fine rock-inspired guitar-led piece that would make a good instrumental track to any rock band’s album.

Colonies: Neociv is a very good score. There’s not a single part of the album that I wanted to skip and that’s down to the composer’s ability to write interesting music. Considering this is an Indie game and was probably made with limited funds, the quality of the score that’s been produced is even more amazing. Colonies: Neociv can be heard in full at the composer’s Bandcamp page, HERE.

Rating: *** ½

  1. Colonies Theme (3:02)
  2. Vengeance (2:33)
  3. Famous Last Words (0:43)
  4. Red Tape (1:57)
  5. A Second Chance (1:50)
  6. Greywater (1:53)
  7. Training Room (2:53)
  8. Power Plant (3:30)
  9. One Step Closer (0:46)
  10. Transmission (3:22)

Running Time: 22:33 (2011)


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