Game music has the power to earworm its way into your heart long after you put the controller down. Each week in Game That Tune, we highlight a great tune from a great game (or a great tune from a just-okay game).
There was one thing that separated Supergiant Games’ Bastion from all other beat-’em ups and Diablo-alikes, and it wasn’t the isometric perspective. It was atmosphere. The game was so rich with atmosphere that players could practically swim in it, Scrooge McDuck style. From the romantic Lone Ranger story to the luscious color palette to floating landscapes that assembled themselves brick-by-brick like so many stud fiends, the entirety of Bastion was crafted to evoke a combination of the familiar and the new—both wondrous and endearing. But no part of the package did more to establish the game’s atmosphere than Darren Korb’s original musical score, quite possibly the most perfect blend of spaghetti western and sci-fi synthetics since Joss Whedon’s Firefly.
Drew Toal wrote last week about Bastion’s ending, and the song from that dramatic final sequence, “Mother, I’m Here,” is rightly famous. I featured “Spike In A Rail” today because within the first few seconds we have everything we need for the space Western: jangly acoustic guitar, folksy harmonica, trip-hop beats, reversed ride cymbals, and a distant slide guitar that punctuates the air around it with a relaxed sort of urgency. There’s a whole lot of conceptual contradictions right there, but they all work together to create a specific time and space that seems impossible and therefore magical. The drums warp and splat in alien ways while the banjo plucks along as though it’s just another day at the barn. It sounds like Portishead scoring a Sergio Leone film. Like Quentin Tarantino’s tour de force about the first manned mission to Mars. Like Clint Eastwood strolling along the perimeter of a disco in sequined pants. This blend of unlikely musical allies fills us with anticipation—if this unprovoked thing of beauty is possible, what in the universe could conceivably come next? Our eyes are on the horizon, and our ears are open wide.