Composed by
Peter McConnell

 

Published by
Double Fine (2006)

 

Tracklistings
1) The Meat Circus
2) Whispering Rock
3) Stay Out of the Moonlight
4) Hagatha's Home
5) Happy Flowers
6) The Lungfish Lair
7) The Milkman Conspiracy
8) Dr. Loboto's Lab
9) Duel With the Critic
10) The Catwalk Phantom
11) March of the Inmates
12) Sasha's Immaculate Mind
13) The Censors Unleashed
14) Black Velvetopia
15) The Wild Bull Run / El Odio
16) The Matador
17) Gloria's Secret Garden
18) Bonita's Tragic Muse
19) Bunk Time
20) Title and End Credits

 

Extras
- Game website
- Composer website

 

Availability
- Double Fine shop
- Synsoniq Records

 

Review by
Oliver Ittensohn

Psychonauts

Please also see our review of the Psychonauts: The Original Cinematic Score album

Psychonauts tells the adventurous story of young Raz (short for Razputin): a boy who sneaks into a summer camp for psychically gifted children to become a telepathic soldier, called Psychonaut. Soon, he finds out about a conspiracy involving some of the teachers. In order to uncover it, he tries to teleport himself into other people’s minds looking for clues and ends up having the adventure of his life full with quirky characters, off beat locations and hilarious dialogue. Created by designer Tim Schafer who has also designed such classic Lucas Arts adventure games as Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle, this jump and run experience is filled with memorable characters, an interesting story and imaginative visuals that ultimately more than make up for its simple gameplay mechanics.

Also on board was composer and long-time collaborator Peter McConnell with whom Schafer had already worked on Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle. The game certainly needed a witty and inventive composer to keep up with its unconventional ideas. Luckily, McConnell excels at just that and the score is full of life, originality and humour. Unluckily, the budget of the game wouldn’t allow for the hiring of a real orchestra or even a small ensemble of players. McConnell, however, didn’t let that become an obstacle for live instrumentation: he himself played parts on solo instruments, among them guitar basses, electric violin and harmonica, to give the score at least some orchestral feel.

As one would expect, the album doesn’t start off quietly: “The Meat Circus” is one of the busiest cues on the album and plunges you right into the world of Psychonauts. The game’s musical environment is as varied as the gameplay scenarios – or in this case the minds of the main characters. McConnell shows expertise at getting the right sound and tempo for each mind and jumps with ease from one musical genre to the next. The employed musical colours range from mysterious and off-worldly (reverberating alien sounds included) in “The Milkman Conspiracy” to sparse and calculated in “Sasha’s Immaculate Mind”, while the score’s musical styles shift from Spanish acoustics in “Black Velvetopia” to upbeat folk music in “Happy Flowers”. The latter, by the way, features one of the most daunting tune wedgies ever! Inherent in all these cues is a charming quirkiness that glues them together. Indeed, even though the score tries to express so much variety at once, it never feels unfocused.

Vital for the music’s coherence are the themes and motifs strewn throughout the score. The two primary themes are introduced in “Title and End Credits”: a fast-paced, jumpy melody for Raz and his circus heritage and a heroic, stern march for the Psychonauts. The march in particular adds an epic feel to the quirky characters and does well in establishing their earnest feelings. Additionally, McConnell flavors his music with sub-themes: one of them, a suspenseful conspiracy-motif for the evil doers, is featured prominently in “The Milkman Conspiracy”.

With Psychonauts, fans of McConnell’s classic adventure game scores will feel right at home. It’s a sound reminiscent of the older days, but nevertheless modernized for today’s standards by live instrumentation. Newcomers, however, might need a couple of listens to adjust to the sound. It’s definitely not an easy or relaxing experience and having played the game is almost a must for the true enjoyment of McConnell’s achievement. However, if you’re an admirer of McConnell’s previous adventure game scores or simply looking for an acquired taste, be sure to pick this one up.