October 25, 2012
Buy at Bandcamp
Frog Fractions is the soundtrack release to the quirky browser game of the same name. It is written by a team of composers: Jim Crawford, Chris Hampton, Charles Roy, Danny Aley, and Louis Gorenfeld. Like the game, the soundtrack is an eclectic mix of styles, though mostly it is electronic and synthesized. It is also rather simple and low budget like the game was, but that is part of its charm, and it still carries some very unique and memorable moments.
The opening track is “Rimushotto Bungie Jump”, energetic BGM for the title screen and one of a few tracks that uses some chiptune for a retro feel. It’s got a decent melody and a nice bounce to it, but it’s too short to want to return to often. One of the other chiptune tracks is the later “Slavonic March” (actually a chiptune rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Marche slave), and carries the sound and feeling of oppression. It’s rather cute in this chiptune form, though of course it has been shortened and simplified for the game. “Choose Wisely” mixes chiptune with a few other instruments, and is also cute with a great melody. It reminds me of early Pokémon town themes, matching the strong melody with a couple of lines of counterpoint here and there for some depth.
Modern synths show up in other electronic pieces. “Aqua Petzold” marks the start of a new chapter for the game, appropriately opening up to adventure with a grander and more spacious sound using big synths. A little later a beat comes in for the upped action. It’s not remarkable but it certainly does its job in setting the atmosphere. “Get Your Ass to Mars” is an odder track, with vocals by Emily Zushi ad libbing overtop of what sounds like it could be an extended outro to an 80s mid-tempo pop track. It has a mellow mood to it that is a bit alluring as well, but again nothing too grabbing other than its atmosphere. Then there is “Go! Go! Foreign Emissary”, which is a more bright and upbeat track. It has a catchier melody to it and is fun enough on its runtime, but that runtime is unfortunately short.
A few rock tracks are also present on the album. “Eyes Open” is a pretty straightforward rock track with a good riff and some soloing to sustain it. It gives the album a bit of edge as well. A remix of the opening track, “Rimushotto Bungie Jump! Bonus Beats”, has a rock foundation although it focuses on synths on the melody as well as in the background. It’s decent enough, but at times it feels a bit too busy and cluttered with the competing sounds. “Princess on Princess” leans more again onto the rock side with just a touch of electronics. A few jazzy piano solos also make appearances throughout, and the electric guitar does a fair amount of soloing as well, but the central riff isn’t strong enough to ground the track. These tracks are fine for what they are, but they don’t stand out too much overall.
The remaining tracks include “Pond Life”, which players should find immediately recognizable. It’s a pleasant little track that doesn’t go far but has a lot of charm, and certainly carries many associations as well. Its “Underwater Alternate” changes up the instrumentation, giving it an underwater ambience with a cleaner sound, letting the piano take the accompaniment. It is also a variation on the original melody, which is a nice change. “I’ll Follow the Shark” starts with a solid bass line before building elements on top of it. It’s a neat mix of stuff with a good groove, and the shift in mood partway is welcome. “The Hubward Annex” is a short orchestral track that is not bad, but the short runtime doesn’t allow it to rise to anything really notable. Then there is “Curiosity”, a pleasant track with pizzicato strings, warm piano, and a few synths, also carrying an underwater feel to it. But the more important version is “A History of Boxing”, which uses “Curiosity” as its instrumental. Overtop is a narration by Kumar Daryanani of a fabricated history of boxing. It’s completely absurd, utterly out-of-place in the game, and ultimately hilarious: a stroke of genius. The track alone more or less justifies the purchase of the soundtrack for players of the game. It’s just a shame that the others don’t rise to the same level.
The Frog Fractions soundtrack is full of light tracks, mostly electronic and some rock, which are often too short or not very memorable on their own. However, they are all crucial to the game that they accompany, and in that regard they do well. The only really standout track is “A History of Boxing”, mainly for its comedic value, but even that is best experienced in the game. The album as a standalone listen is mainly good just for going down the Frog Fractions memory lane, so if you enjoyed the game, by all means check it out. But for anyone else, be sure to check out the game first.
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Posted on March 15, 2016 by Christopher Huynh. Last modified on March 15, 2016.