VGM Playlist #5 – ‘Television’

This is a series of posts and playlists showing off video game equivalents to the themes of Classic FM’s Saturday Night at the Movies shows – this week, Television

If there’s one thing video games are traditionally bad at, it’s the licensed tie-in. For years, games have been tormented by awful cash grabs based on films which is only just being overcome, but another area which goes more under the radar and usually has even worse games are ones based on television shows. Either insipid clones of different games or adventures which have nothing to do with the source material, it’s rare you get something of quality and even rarer to find one with its own soundtracks that doesn’t use its source for the duration.

However, occasionally we are treated to a great soundtrack in these games. Sometime it may be lost behind boring gameplay and shoddy porting, while at others it compliments a strong and interesting playing experience and acts an excellent companion to the original

Perhaps the easiest genre to get the video game adaptation correct is with animation although even then it took South Park upteen attempts to get it right. The soundtrack here is heavily inspired by other titles in the fantasy RPG genre, most notably Jeremy Soule’s work on the Elder Scrolls series. The turn based battles feel epic each time you play through, while more calm exploration in the world is built upon light strings and wind, reflecting a grand but dangerous world.

Another strong tactic is to make the game a side story to the main event, something Telltale have become masters of with their titles and is very much in evidence with their Game of Thrones series (I’ve also cheated a little and included the music to their Walking Dead games in the playlist even though it’s based on the comic, but who’s policing anyway). Once again, the main theme sets the tone for the game, relaying sadness and the stress of the actions you have to take throughout.

As mentioned, some games are terrible but have been given a lease of life thanks to their soundtrack. The best example of this is Michael Giacchino’s work on Lost: Via Domus, but animation is not immune to terrible tie-ins with good music either, as can been seen in the recent Legend of Korra game by Platinum where the music is the only element to shine through.

Elsewhere we have music to games which launched with a companion tv show at the outset (Viva Pinata), pieces from Star Trek’s surprisingly acceptable compendium of games from the last 20 or so years and of course The Simpsons. Games based on tv are difficult to do, but when done right they can produce decent games and/or quality soundtracks.

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