We (ok just me then) at Higher Plain Games have our second pre-release review in our short 9 months of life, however this is our first in the gaming music world and that makes Simon a happy bunny. Winifred Phillips (from God of War fame) has been beavering away composing the SimAnimals soundtrack, which will be released on 19/01/09! Anyway enough of the psychobabble – onwards with the review!
SimAnimals opens with the quirky but magical “Sim Animal Theme” which wouldn’t sound out of place in a regular Sims trailer or opening cinematic. It has a cute charm to it with its clumsy marimba’s, perky flutes and beautifully rich string ensemble. This sound is followed up by the more tense “Trailheads” which has an usual overall sound because the piano and strings sound quite agitated while the woodwind is chirpy and crisp and there’s bird song happily calling you in the background. “Free Play” is an aural delight with little Celtic flourishes garnishing angelic string plucks and percussive tunes.
The soundtrack takes a more darker sound with brass and rumbling percussion coming to the forefront in “World in Need” before turning to sneak/comedic values for “Dry Gulch” which is a fun track that never stays still. “Grassy Glen” is a more regal track with plenty of ambience added to its lush orchestral soundscapes. It’s now you know you’re in very safe hands.
“Castle Ridge” is a downbeat Celtic piece that blossoms out into an intricate call and response piece between various instruments. It works beautifully with its playful wooden block percussion. The whole soundtrack really comes across like Yasunori Mitsuda’s “Hako No Niwa (Box Garden)” in terms of its soundscape and production. Everything is close to the ear. If you take that sound and infuse a small pinch of Kumi Tanioka’s Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicle’s styled songs then you arrive somewhere close to Sim Animals.
“Friendship” is a warm hearted piece with great use of pizzicato strings and tuned percussion which dances playfully through your speakers. “Hard Times” has some nice crow samples and discordant brass to get you going before surprisingly an electric guitar comes in to back up an excellent wind solo. Juxtaposed with “Happy Place”, the two couldn’t be further apart with their emotion, the latter being a riot.
“Orchard Playground” is a playful track that skips on through like a breath of fresh air as even though its a busy track, it never feels like it. “Danger Woods” however is full of brooding tension and is the soundtracks darkest piece. “Foggy Wallow” has running water throughout this dramatic string and wind section which is a nice effect as it sounds quite authentic. “Absolutely Positive” sounds very Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles with its percussive edge all the way through which is no bad thing at all.
“Woodlands” starts off the final run with bouncing song with an unusual time sequence to its bass drum which sets it apart from the rest as it has an understated drama to it. “Perfect World” is soaring track that utilises choral keys very well and gives it an ethereal quality. “Misty Bog” is possibly the most jazziest song on the album if you could call it that due to the brass and finger bells involved.
“Quality Time” is the longest piece on the soundtrack and it deserves to be as it carefully winds its way through a cute melody. “Forest Song” then closes the soundtrack to the most upbeat track. Paced by an acoustic guitar and drums it flies and soars with its orchestra which flows over the top of a happy folksy song to give you an uplifting tune that has Celtic twangs to it.
Winifred Phillips has created a soundtrack that keeps the essence of Sims music intact with its magical melodrama and lush production but she’s also moved it into a world that gives it maturity and a more polished feel. The whole soundtrack gives a certain warmth that I can only relate to with Mitsuda’s “Hako No Niwa” but if your a Sims, Mitsuda, Celtic or orchestrated music, you’ll feel right at home here. The first must have of 2009 for VGM fans is here.
We will be hoping to bring an interview with Winifred Phillips soon.