Offspring Fling Original Soundtrack
Offspring Fling Original Soundtrack
March 30, 2012
Download at Bandcamp
You might call it ‘tough love’, but sometimes a mother just has to toss her offspring around to keep the little babies safe. Case in point: platform puzzler Offspring Fling, which delivers exactly what its title promises. The player takes control of a cute forest creature, which needs top pick up her kids and get them to the exit of each level. Those little critters are both a blessing and a burden: mum can chug them around to press out of reach buttons, but the more babies she carries around, the smaller her jumps get. Reviewers responded well to Offspring Fling‘s adorable 16-bit aesthetics and accessible gameplay. A good part of their praise was reserved for Alec Holowka’s soundtrack, which frequently drew favourable comparisons with Joe Hisaishi’s scores for Hayao Miyazaki’s movies. Holowka had previously worked with the game’s creator Kyle Pulver on Everybody Loves Active 2 and wrote a 35-minute soundtrack for this new project, which was released via Holowka’s Bandcamp site.
Those Miyazaki comparisons aren’t a bad start, but an even more appropriate point of comparison for Offspring Fling would be Yoko Shimomura’s Legend of Mana, with which it shares many similarities in mood and orchestration, without reaching the same level of excellence though. Holowka writes fresh, bright music for a small ensemble of instruments that includes the usual suspects for this kind of game — a solo violin to carry most of the soundtrack’s perky melodies, tubas for those cute bouncy rhythms and several sprightly woodwind solo instruments to give the score its warm, organic feeling. The title manages the tricky task to capture the cuteness of the game’s presentation without turning saccharine. It also helps that Holowka’s compositions flow well from one section to the next and feature attractive melodic writing, even though on closer inspection, some compositions’ colourful and bright orchestrations dress up rather simple material. “Adventure Time” is one such case, where the violin’s spirited lead melody recurs too often throughout the track and spoils the fun a bit.
However, for most of the album’s first half, everything’s fine as Offspring Fling is off to an immensely charming start. It’s pretty much impossible to dislike the sunny violin leads and beautifully layered woodwind rhythms of “Mother’s Day” and “Mellow Magnificent”, which readily conjure images of walking through a lush forest bustling with dainty little creatures. The score’s melodies find a good middle ground between liveliness and dreaminess, just like these themes themselves when they slip in quieter passages during which the music turns languid and glides along on the silvery sounds of a glockenspiel and whispy violin chords. During these moments, the forest turns into a place that’s as mysterious as it is enchanted, and the fairytale atmosphere is beautifully sustained by the realistic instrument sounds Holowka wrings out of his sample libraries.
“Misty Morn” focuses exclusively on such a serene ambience and vividly evokes the hushed atmosphere in a forest just before dawn with a tumbling woodwind figure set against a shimmering, calm instrumental background. On the other end of the spectrum, the listener finds “John Waters”, whose droll, strident rhythms bring to mind a cheery parade of cute forest critters marching past. It’s one of the best orchestrated tracks on the album and always maintains its forward momentum, despite the many shifts in melody and orchestration. A short organ passage is the moment where Offspring Fling comes closest to sounding like Legend of Mana (“Daedal’s Organ”).
Where things become more problematic is in the album’s second half. The first reason for this that despite the variety in mood and dynamics that Holowka tries to introduce, Offspring Fling‘s cheeriness starts to become a bit monotonous. “Lil Piggy” follows after “”John Waters” and continues exactly from where that earlier piece left off. The track is still charming, particularly through its intertwining flute and violin melodies, but it doesn’t say anything that hasn’t already been said often enough on previous tracks. The frolicking violin lead of “This is the Day” could be taken right out of “Adventure Time” and suffers from similar problems as its predecessor, although the former doesn’t end up sounding as repetitive.
In between these two tracks, “Snow Problem” adds some new instrumental colours to the soundtrack, even though they’re very familiar ones. There’s probably some sort of law out there that you can’t write a game score cue about an icy location without frosty string ostinato and tinkling piano set in a resonant acoustic. To give Holowka credit though, he doesn’t abandon the album’s buoyant atmosphere on “Snow Problem”, but manages to twist it appropriately to serve both the cue’s wintry location and the album’s general flow. There’s also a blossoming oboe melody in “Snow Problem” that turns out to be one of album’s most beautiful moments, partly because its pastoral loveliness is contrasted with a chilly instrumental backdrop.
Then there are also “Dangerisk” and “Rumbly Rumble”, two cues that break Offspring Fling‘s jolly mood and sound like the soundtrack’s take on those “Hurry!” tracks that so many Japanese RPGs feel obliged to include. Unfortunately, both tracks suffer from the same issue of repetitiveness as so many other tracks of its ilk, and their frenetic violin crisis motifs are tiring rather than intense and driving. “Rumbly Rumble” tries to expand on its basic “run faster!” formula by chucking some deep, bubbling synths into the mix, but these electronic elements feel out of place on a soundtrack that so heavily relies on acoustic instruments. The best that can be said about these tracks is that when the music returns to the soundtrack’s previous jaunty mood on the following tracks “Mending” and “Flinging High”, their effervescence is a lot more effective now that we’ve heard some differently styled music that added a bit of contrast.
If you like Offspring Fling‘s visual design, there’s a good chance that you’ll enjoy its soundtrack as well. Organic, warm and almost invariably merry, the score’s vivacious pieces are as charming as you’d hope for. Sanguine violin melodies lead compositions full of welcoming woodwind lines and rhythms, while some dreamy interludes give the music an airy fairytale atmosphere. The compositions aren’t particularly deep and can sound samey at times, but Offspring Fling‘s relatively modest running time prevents the constantly cheerful atmosphere from becoming tedious. While no revelation, this score is appealing, breezy fun.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Simon Elchlepp. Last modified on August 1, 2012.