Game That Tune

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP

Bad Moon Rising

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP sounds dank but never dreary.

By Derrick Sanskrit • March 14, 2013

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).

It was always clear that music was going to be a rather significant part of Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. From the reference in the title to the game being experienced like a classic extended play record to the line “with songs and sounds by Jim Guthrie” right there under the logo in promotional materials, Guthrie’s soundtrack received high billing in the game’s development. Guthrie was already a well-regarded star of the Canadian indie rock scene, having been a member of Human Highway, Islands, and Royal City—and collaborating with artists such as Leslie Feist and Sufjan Stevens—in addition to his own regular output of solo music. Before its release, Sword & Sworcery was already being embraced as the indie rock supergroup of video games. The game did not disappoint. Guthrie’s soundscapes proved to be some of the most enthralling audio experiences in recent history, as heard here in the track “Bones McCoy.”

The star of the show here is the percussion, soaking wet as to resemble a rainforest. Wood blocks hop like frogs across rotted-out logs, the hi-hat marches like armies of ants across the loose soil, and distant snaps, clicks, plunks, and snares fill the atmosphere with reverberation. The result is a sense of space that is both sprawling and choking. The humidity creates all of the character the song needs, making the synth lead feel almost unnecessary, though the pulsing bass line builds a tremendous tension for such a small voice. These are the sounds of humanity preparing for the worst while hoping for the best. Guthrie’s score does more to ground the audience in this rich fantasy world than any other part of the experience.

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30 Responses to “Bad Moon Rising”

  1. DrFlimFlam says:

    Great soundtrack. I just can’t stand playing the game. My personal favorite is “Dark Flute.”

    • Cloks says:

      The developers sacrificed clear and cohesive game-play to make the interactive experience they wanted and it really suffers for it. My biggest frustrations were how confusing the actions that the game wanted – needed – you to take were barely hinted at at some points. I get that the people behind Bored And Drudgery EP want to make some of it about discovery but dang, this game is just like a tiny man sitting on your screen and screaming “ART!” at you while slapping your hand every time you try to do something.

    • dmikester says:

      I actually really enjoyed playing the game, but I know I’m in the minority.  What platform have you played it on?  I got it in the Humble Bundle last year for Mac, and I can’t imagine playing it on a tablet or iPhone, its original platforms.  The small screen would have likely made the gameplay even less easy to understand than it was on a bigger computer screen.

      • Oxperiment says:

         I dunno, man, I picked it up for the same bundle and despite playing about half of it the gameplay was… tiresome. It’s not that it was all style and no substance, just that all the substance was in the style.

      • caspiancomic says:

         Really? I actually felt the opposite. I got the game in HiB5 for Mac, and loved it, but the whole time I was wishing I was playing it on a touchscreen device. It was pretty clearly designed for it, I felt.

      • dmikester says:

        Yeah, I know I’m very weird when it comes to this game.  It might be the only game I can think of where I didn’t mind the gameplay being annoying at all because I was so into the design and energy of the game, and the gameplay felt like a part of that.  And @caspiancomic:disqus to your point, a good number of the puzzles definitely felt designed for a touchscreen, but I never minded them, and in general, I liked being able to see more and get immersed more on a bigger screen.  I don’t think I would have the same affection for it if I’d played it on a touchscreen, but maybe.

    • CrabNaga says:

      This game was fun enough for me to play through it twice. It’s odd because I can’t really say I enjoyed the gameplay, and I have the soundtrack so I can just listen to that if I want. For me, along with Journey, it might be the best example of “games as art” because neither game is particularly fun to play but I still like to play them.

      One piece of advice for anyone wanting to play this game (without being a cheating cheater) would be to NOT play the game during a full or new moon, even though you’re “supposed” to later on.

      Lone Star is my favorite track, or “And We Got Older”

  2. PaganPoet says:

    I’ve never heard of this game before, but this track is awesome. Checked out a video review on youtube and found out it’s available for Android recently. I guess I know what I’ll be playing on the bus this evening. YAS!

    My favorite cereal is LIFE! I had it and I LIVED!

    • It’s actually included in the current Humble Bundle for Android, if you want to score Super Hexagon, Splice, NightSky and a few others along with S:S&SEP.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

        Oh neat. I picked it up last week largely for Super Hexagon, which is way too fun and has some pretty sweet music to boot. So I guess I have this now.

      • I’ve personally been playing Solar 2 and Beat Hazard almost exclusively, so seems like there’s tons of stuff to appreciate in the Bundle.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      Cinnamon Life is the ultimate cereal.

  3. stakkalee says:

    Communicator check one-two one-two
    This is Bones McCoy on the line to Sulu.
    Set the bullshit to warp factor one,
    Check your tricorder set your phasers to stun.
    – Beastie Boys, The Brouhaha

    Nice song by Jim Guthrie!  For me, the synth doesn’t really become a problem until a minute and a half in – up til that point everything really works well together.

  4. Dammit Sanskrit! You raised my hopes and dashed them quite quickly.

    I thought this was that feature where you take a game and pair it up with a pop culture tune and you were gonna hammer some Creedence Clearwater Revival onto Sword & Sworcery!!!!

    But alas, I still love me some Jim Guthrie though I prefer his more upbeat soundtrack to Indie Game the Movie, personally. And if any of you guys like this song, he’s been working on an album since 2007(!) and it is finally coming out soon! It’s gonna be sick! Check out the first track and read up on it here:

  5. boardgameguy says:

    i’m playing through this right now.  the atmostphere, largely provided by the music, is the best thing going.  although the occasional voice that pops up, always extremely casual, was a nice tough to for a game that primarily relies on text.

    • uselessyss says:

      Yeah, I loved the murmurings of the logger you would hear occasionally. It kind of took me by surprise, but it totally fits with the overall tone of the game.

  6. dmikester says:

    I could be in the minority, but I absolutely loved this game for its weirdness and atmosphere, which totally sucked me in and got me obsessed with moon cycles of all things.  And the soundtrack is of course essential to the game and the atmosphere; The Ballad of the Space Babies is one of my favorite songs of the past couple of years, game or otherwise.

  7. Xtracurlyfries says:

    It’s Hipster Zelda, but I thought it was awesome.

  8. Histamiini says:

    I could not get enough of the sounds the little sprites made when you clicked on them. It’s a lovely, unique game even though mechanically it can be a little bit frustrating.

    Also, the line “Now we are cosmic friends forever” (which the game tells the player) pops up in my mind sometimes. I say it silently when something unexpected connects me with a stranger. It’s gentle and humorous which describes the tone of the game well.

    The music is excellent but the writing is perfect too. The tone is very light and controlled and carefully considered.

  9. Brainstrain says:

    I tried to play this game once. I’m pretty sure half the graphics weren’t rendering. Nice to hear that it’s confusing even when working properly, though.

  10. caspiancomic says:

    Derrick, Derrick, Derrick, first Bastion and now S:S&S EP? Is this feature a love letter to me?

    I know a lot of people seem to really dislike this game, but I adored it. It primarily activated my aesthetic appreciation sensors, rather than my gameplay ones, but still. The games visuals and sounds created something I had never seen before or since in gaming. My personal favourite track on the OST is The Prettiest Weed, which I think only plays once in that game.

    Also, Guthrie’s personal work is quite good while I’m at it. I’ve been listening to his 2003 album Now, More Than Ever recently. Worth a look, if you’re into that sort of thing.

    • I thought I established in the first paragraph that I was familiar with his work before the game was announced. And yeah, I was kind of surprised the comments section wasn’t lit ablaze for my not having included this entry months ago. Now I’m left wondering if I can go a full year without touching on Katamari…

      • caspiancomic says:

         Ah, my recommendation of Guthrie’s other work was aimed more towards the crowd than yourself, Derrick, I’m sure you’re perfectly familiar with his back category.

        Also, I don’t envy anyone who has to choose one song from the Katamari series to represent the whole. My heart belongs to WANDA WANDA, but there’s an argument to be made for just about any song you care to name.

      • DrFlimFlam says:

        I think game music is so appreciated across the board that each entry is just another clink of glasses in celebration.

        Chrono Cross!

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      I intend to watch someone play it once. The first chapter was cool and surprisingly creepy for the aesthetic. I just didn’t know what to do after and lost interest.

    • Destroy Him My Robots says:

      Aw, man. I’m super late for this article, but since you’re so excited: If you haven’t read it already, there’s a nice article on 1up about localizing SS&SEP for Japan in particular, but they touch on a lot of other good stuff. For example they mention that Guthrie did a lot of the songs with MTV Music Generator on a PS1.

      • I knew he used MTV Music Generator for demos prior to S:S&SEP but I hadn’t read any confirmation that he used it for this as well. I loved that “game.” Many a long night jam session with friends and multiple DualShocks. Such a lost opportunity, that franchise.

        • Destroy Him My Robots says:

          I’ve always been a snobby Cubase user, so I missed the MTV Music Generator party. I do know that I liked the video they had for the PS2 version that had Funkmaster Flex urging people not to front.

          Do you have any thoughts on the remixed version of SS&SEP? I do want to replay the game some time, but I can never decide whether I just want to play the original again or try the remixed Japanese version that Capybara graciously added to my Steam account for no cost at all. So I end up never playing it.