Hamster Ball Official Soundtrack
Hamster Ball Official Soundtrack
November 24, 2004
Download at Bandcamp
Long after the glory days of the demoscene, Future Crew’s Peter Hajbu (aka Skaven 252) continues to channel influences from the scene in his indie soundtracks. While best known for his work on the Bejeweled series, he has also had a long-running collaboration with Raptisoft on games such as Hamster Ball, Boonka, and Hap Hazard. The first of these, 2004’s Hamster Ball is a ball racing game inspired by Marbel Madness. Long before Bandcamp became the medium-of-choice for indie game composers, Hajba released the game’s soundtrack on the site. While a little lacklustre, it certainly demonstrated his tracker sound continued to live on.
For better or worse, “Hamster Ball Theme” sounds like it belongs to an era long past. The upbeat pop-flavoured melodies are reminiscent of those emerging from titles such as Diddy Kong Racing and Mario Kart 64. The synth — created entirely using the 1990s ModPlug Tracker — adds to the warm vintage sound. Hajba was nevertheless kind enough to remaster the music, after it was heavily compressed for in-game purposes. The final result is hardly original and lacks elaboration, but it’s still a great fit for the exciting gameplay and cute protagonist.
Given the nature of Hamster Ball‘s gameplay, most tracks on the official soundtrack needed to be brief, fun, but intense. To achieve this, Hajba combines the upbeat tone of the title theme with electro influences. For instance, the early stage themes “Gerbil Groove” and “Happy Rush!” both blend the retro feel with an anthemic trance sound. Hajba hit the target when creating these tracks — it’s exhilarating to hear these tracks while sliding down passages, avoiding obstacles.
Whereas some developers would have used the same track throughout the gameplay, Raptisoft asked Hajba to create a new piece for every level, resulting in quite a few contrasts. For example, while the introductory race theme “Hamster Nation” comprises of some carefree loops, the expert race track “Fight For It” captures the fast pace and hammering obstacles with pulsating beats and heavy rock riffs. Others complement the outlandish nature of some of the game’s levels, for example the crystalline “Cages of Glass”, luminous “Neon Rodent City”, or disorientating “Bad Pellet Trip”, leaving a lasting impression.
However, most tracks still have more in common than they do differences — always featuring an upbeat mood, electro-pop stylings, and a short playtime. No doubt the samey nature of the gameplay didn’t provide much opportunity for contrast. This is nevertheless detrimental to the stand-alone experience, since tracks such as “Dizzy!” or “Bucky Break” tend to be dwarved by their longer, heavier partners. What’s more, the collective experience verges on the repetitive and doesn’t consistently entertain.
The approach Hajba took when scoring Hamster Ball was something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the numerous tracks bring individuality and variety to the in-game levels. On the other hand, they don’t work as well on a stand-alone level due to their similar approaches. Tracker music fans should still enjoy this soundtrack, though wider listeners are better off listening to Hajba’s Bejeweled soundtracks above this one.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.