Welcome to Smash Bits! A collection of articles exploring the wonderful world of video game music.
Fans of the classic graveyard romp, MediEvil, where thrilled to hear that Sony are bringing back their jaw-less hero in a new PS4 remake this October. While the game play, visuals and story are enough to merit resurrection by their own right, today we’re going to look at the games soundtrack, and why it is one of the best video game compositions to this day.
Created by Sony Cambridge, MediEvil is an action platformer with comical gothic themes and tongue and cheek humour. The game’s developer, Chris Sorrell, was heavily influenced by Tim Burton and The Nightmare Before Christmas, which is apparent in both the game’s audio and visual design. MediEvil is a prime example of how CD technology paved the way for parity between video game music and those found within the film industry, thanks to the work of video game music legends, Bob & Barn. The creative use of synthesisers and intricacy in its score makes the MediEvil soundtrack one of the best soundtracks on the PlayStation, of which could easily be mistaken for the work of a conductor lead orchestra.
Paul Arnold and Andrew Barnabas are have severed as a video game music powerhouse since 1990, winning awards for their soundtracks across various systems. Bob & Barn ascended through the ranks at Sony to eventually run the sound department at Sony Computer Entertainment up until 2001. Impressive resume aside, simply hearing their Danny Elfman-esque scores from MediEvil should be enough convince you of their sheer talent for atmospheric audio.
It’s easy for a soundtrack to simply evoke one emotion; be it suspense, fear, joy or sadness. When it comes to MediEvil, however, the game’s score manages to cover a lot of ground, playing a careful balancing act between horror and hilarity. While it’s easy to keep comparing this soundtrack to the work of Elfman, it’s mainly due to how close the tone matches the likes of Edward Scissorhands, or the Tim Burton Batman series, that idea of weird and wacky mixed in with something that could be deemed as harrowing. One minute the track is filled with playful Pizzicato strings, the next it bursts into the menacing sound of choir voices and frantic melodies.
This contrasting spectrum of themes matches our protagonists aesthetics perfectly, as Sir Dan is grotesque looking skeleton with a quirky personality. Sir Dan’s jaunty gate is tailor made to parts of the soundtrack, providing some comic relief before we’re presented with anxiety filled boss battle tracks. This is definitely something that will play on your emotions while playing MediEvil, as based on sound alone, you can be lead into a false sense of security, before being shoved into feelings of dread and anxiety… at least until you remember you can use your arm as a club, in which case everything becomes hilarious again.
MediEvil has a rather large sound track, especially when you take in to account the sequel and even remaster, which features an actual orchestra rather than the synths used in the original. Depending on your own personal tastes, you may wish to stick with that proper PS1 composition, with its unusual sounding brass instruments and strings. However, there’s a lot to be said about how well each track translates into a real, live orchestra, with the outcome being something that is definitely a movie grade composition.
If for some reason you only have time to listen to one track, then check out Hilltop Mausoleum , which perfectly demonstrates the heights of which this soundtrack manages to reach. Of course, like all game soundtracks, the best way to experience the magic is by picking up a controller and getting stuck in. If you’ve not held onto your original PlayStation, you can always fire up the Vita or PS3 and get downloading from the store, otherwise, patiently wait until October for Sir Dan to creep his way onto PS4.
If you’d like to get a hold of this soundtrack, you can do so via the Bob & Barn website, which has a physical CD available to buy. If you’re 21 century digital person, however, you can also catch this compilation on Spotify.