Composed by
Ari Pulkkinen

 

Published by
Frozenbyte (2005)

 

Tracklistings

Cinematic
1) Main Theme
2) Valley Of Shadow
3) Requiem For Baxter
4) New Atlantis
5) The Ancients

Action
6) FMJ
7) Protectors
8) Reqqu Goes To Hell
9) I Need A Minigun
10) Run Like Hell
11) Total Metal Jacket
12) Prey On This
13) Mech The Destroyer
14) Request (pt.1)
15) Request (pt.2)
16) Against All Odds
17) Final Round

Ambient
18) Menu
19) Apocalypse (pt.1)
20) Apocalypse (pt.2)
21) Request Adagio (pt.1)
22) Request Adagio (pt.2)
23) Lost Sentinels (pt.1)
24) Wait For Me
25) They're After Me
26) Requiem For Baxter Adagio
27) Main Theme (end credits)

Bonus
28) Rtzon King - Super Cool Disco

 

Extras
- Game website
- Composer website
- Interview

 

Availability
- Sumthing Digital
- CD Universe

Review by
Oliver Ittensohn

Shadowgrounds

With Shadowgrounds, Finnish developer Frozenbyte tried to bring back old-school action. The game featured a classic top-down camera and simplistic gameplay mechanics. Even then, the title’s graphics engine was capable of modern special effects, destructible environment and advanced lighting. Unfortunately, the weak storyline and somewhat monotonous action sequences got the game only average reviews in the end.

The storyline of Shadowgrounds is set in the year 2050 on the distant planet of Ganymede. The player takes the role of mechanic and ex-security expert Wesley Tyler. When a series of strange happenings occur in the Repair Base Tyler is stationed at, he starts to investigate and suddenly finds himself surrounded by aliens wreaking havoc.

To underscore the dark and hard-boiled action game, Frozenbyte turned to their in-house composer Ari Pulkkinen who would take a varied and interesting approach and set out to mix just about any musical style into a neat score package. For the in-game cinematics he went for a distinctly orchestral approach and introduces two themes that he’d later refer back to. The first one is the “Main Theme”, a melancholic and dramatic piece carried by military percussion and choir. The second one is the “Requiem for Baxter” which employs deep male choir and a string-lead rhythm. The style of these orchestral pieces will immediately remind soundtrack fans of some of film composer Hans Zimmer’s scores.

Once we get into the action, the musical style changes from orchestral to hard electronic and heavy rock. Guitar riffs and aggressive backbeats dominate these cues while Pulkkinen sometimes adds a deep string line on top of them to create a cinematic feel. Arguably the best action cue is “Protectors” that successfully combines fast-paced electronic rhythm and orchestral overlay to a movie-like cue. Some theme variations appear in the action cues as well, most notably in “Full Metal Jacket”. Most of the thematic material and cinematic feel is buried beneath the unrelenting hard rock and dance arrangements though; some of them featuring live guitar riffs.

The ambient portion of the album starts off with the “Menu”-music of the game. It sets the mood for a title that is just as much about action as it is about creating suspense: Deep, echoing brass and ascending, fast-paced strings along with a reprisal of the main theme. The slow and unobtrusive writing continues into the other ambient cues with the highlight being very emotional “Request Adagio (Part 2)”.

The varied and stylized approach Pulkkinen took serves the game very well. Unfortunately, the poor synthesizer does not. This is not a problem in the action arrangements, but the orchestral and more solemn cues suffer considerably. This will certainly be a point the composer has to work on in future scores. Furthermore, the placement of the cues on the album into different categories is an odd choice. Instead of mixing the more ambient with the more action oriented material, you get all the same styles in a row. First, the action will hit you over the head before the ambient might start to bore you after three or four cues. A little more diverse arrangement of the individual tracks would have made the listening experience much better. Nevertheless, the album is as much a tribute to retro game soundtracks as it is combination of different genres. If you are particularly fond of hard rock and electronics, you can tack on another half star to the rating.