Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Block Form

I became something on Sunday. Something I thought I would never be. I am one of those guys with hi-tech cellular telephone.

I thought this day would never come, but here it is...

As a man who enjoys his gadgetry, I am familar with this feeling. It is something of a "honeymoon" phase. Said gadget is given an exorbanent amount of attention. Customization takes place, experimentation with connectivity and carefully handling are all part of the process. I know what comes next though. Day to day usage leads to familiarity, until the very apple of my eye is nothing more then a necessity or a forgotten remnant. It happened with my Ipod Touch. The thing was my night and day. Why I clumsily Im'ed from a prone position when my laptop was just a few feet away still baffles me. When scratches started to appear on the back casing, obscuring my engraved Shostakovich quote, the device became a not the very cherished item it once was, but a simple part of my arsenal.

But I digress...

In order to complete the "tricking out" process, games must be downloaded. Scrolling for reliable puzzle fare led me to one of my all time favorites, and lump of coal of the Sega catalogue, Columns.
(Puyo Pop was included, but I haven't got around to accessing it yet)

Setting down for a play session, I fell right into the old patterns. What really struck me this time was how much I loved the music and how much it embodies the aesthetic of the experience. It got me thinking about other memorable puzzle game music and how important they are to the experience.

The music of Columns is a something of a Bach invention. A cycling polyphonic venture of pure Baroque pleasure. When mixed with the odd ancient egyptian influenced art style, the experience is complete. Forgetting actual gameplay and technique, the musc/art creates a story in itself. It isn't exactly a narrative, it is something else that characterizes the best puzzle games.

As a classic example, Tetris does it correctly. The blocks are all made of unique textures that seem plausible in the mid-century Russian architeture vibe. It goes without saying that the music of Tetris is prefectly suited. "Song A" is probably one of the most well known pieces of video game compositions in history with a understandable appealing nature yet it has a deep rooted sophistication. The rapid arpeggiation and chromatic movement are defined in a prolific virtuoisic Russian mentality. "Song B" sounds like something out of Bartok's Slavic-influence piano works. Seriously, the thing is straight out of Mikrokasmos

Dr. Mario exceeds in a the same form. You have to think about the decisions involved in creating a the art style of Dr. Mario because it really is inspired. If you think about the concept alone, there are thousands of directions the project could have gone in. But as soon as you boot that thing up, you know what you are getting into. The whole game relies on some silly funk ideal that comes through in both the music and design choices. The bad plaid checkboard background synethesized with some sort of neo-future neon piping to border everything.

It's brilliantly scatallogical!

Drown the whole thing in the wittiest, most profoundly confounding funk melodies and textures and the tone is complete. It just revels in it's complete randomness.

It makes me think why an indie favorite like Gunpey didn't tug at my hear strings. The concept is fine, but considering the entierty of the gameplay sort of hinges on the music being an integral part of the experience, it is unlawfully cheesy.

I see Q Ent. as the embodiment of the new era of puzzle games and the conceptual world that they reside in. It is a undoubtedly futuristic approach. Colors are clean and contrasted and the music is tight and electronic. There is a pleasing nostalagia factor involved, a nod to the silliness and depraved design choices of the past, but in this day and age, there is a need to be thoroughly well produced, and the products should adhere to this with both a clearly manipulated strategy and a seemless overall package.

I have another short idea for a post which I should get down by the end of the week. After that, I want to work on something more thorough. Unless something compels me to write sooner.

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