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 that 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 buttons that would otherwise be out of reach, 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, releasing the score album via his Bandcamp site.
Those Miyazaki comparisons aren't a bad start, but an even more appropriate point of reference for Offspring Fling would be Yoko Shimomura's Legend of Mana, with which it shares many similarities in mood and orchestration, but without reaching the same level of excellence. 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 score 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 some compositions' colourful orchestrations dress up rather simple material. "Adventure Time" is one such case, as 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 near impossible to dislike the sunny violin leads and beautifully layered woodwind rhythms of "Mother's Day" and "Mellow Magnificent", which readily conjure images of strolling through a lush forest bustling with dainty little creatures. The score's melodies find a good middle ground between liveliness and dreaminess, just like the compositions themselves as 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 that Holowka wrings out of his sample libraries.
"Misty Morn" focuses exclusively on such a serene mood and with a tumbling woodwind figure set against a shimmering, calm instrumental background, the piece vividly evokes the hushed atmosphere of a forest just before dawn. 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. 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").
Things become more problematic on the album's second half - despite the variety in mood and dynamics that Holowka tries to introduce, Offspring Fling's cheeriness starts to wear a bit thing. "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 have been lifted straight out of "Adventure Time" and suffers from similar problems as that earlier track, although "This is the Day" 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 instead 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 the chilly instrumental backdrop.
Then there are also "Dangerisk" and "Rumbly Rumble", two cues that break Offspring Fling's jolly mood and feel like the soundtrack's take on those "Hurry!" tracks that so many Japanese RPGs feel obliged to include. Unfortunately, both compositions suffer from the same issue of repetitiveness as so many other cues of their ilk, and their frenetic violin crisis motifs end up sounding 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 relies so heavily on acoustic instruments. The best that can be said about "Dangerisk" and "Rumbly Rumble" is that when the album returns to the score'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 has 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.
Indie Game Music Bundle 3
Музыка Offspring Fling на Bandcamp
Offspring Fling — это история о бедной лесной зверушке, которая потеряла всех своих малышей. Героиня будет прокладывать нелегкий путь в поисках детишек более чем через 100 уровней, полных экшена и загадок. Опасности подстерегают на каждом углу, но она не успокоится до тех пор, пока её семья не будет в безопасности.
Игра вышла 30-го марта 2012 на PC и Mac. На официальном сайте она продаётся за 7,99$....
This is the Day