Unsophisticated ears at the ready

With the London Games Festival under way, and the Video Games Live concerts taking place at the Royal Festival Hall today, I’ve been listening to the first Video Games Live CD release.

Game music attracts a particularly fanatical fan, if you’ll excuse the phraseology. I am not such a person. The only game soundtrack CDs I own are Wipeout and Yoshi’s Story, which I got free, respectively, with an issue of Arcade magazine, and as a pre-order freebie. So for me VGL is more of a curiosity, especially given the calibre of musicians involved – the English Chamber Orchestra is performing at the concerts in London today, for example.

So what’s on the CD? There’s a lot of overtly dramatic fare – pounding drum beats, chanting, that sort of thing. I’m talking about Warcraft, Medal of Honor, God of War, Advent Rising, Tron and Halo. To my ears – admittedly quite unsophisticated ears – they’re all pretty indistinguishable. Even Myst, after a quiet atmospheric start and a brief dalliance into world music, eventually ends up in the same territory.

There are exceptions, though. Civilisation IV sticks largely in the world music groove; Kingdom Hearts is unmistakeable Disney fantasy; and the ludicrous rock of Castlevania is surprisingly good fun.

The highlight for me, though, is Tetris. It’s only just over a minute long, but it’s Russian folk piano joy at its best. More jovial inclusions – Mario, Sonic, anything like that – would have made this a more complete compilation. But maybe that’s being saved for the second volume.

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