Having reviewed one of Winifred Phillips’ gaming soundtracks before – the above average SimAnimals CD – I was intrigued to see what she would do with the Spore Hero soundtrack. Her work on SimAnimals was arguably restrained by the subject matter, although I was still impressed with how she threw in a few surprisingly dark, almost gothic compositions into the mix, showcasing her undoubted, proven talent for pulling something a little different out of the bag.
EA’s Spore Hero, the Wii iteration of the Spore title, has given Phillips freer reign for her compositions, although they still have to remain on the lighter end of her oeuvre. This is a game for kids, after all.
Phillips is excellent at matching the right sounds for the right occasion and that certainly shows here. Without even having played the title I can already envisage the gameplay from just listening to the soundtrack and that’s a powerful tool, indeed. A great soundtrack can elevate an average title to something more, placing you in the heart of the action and enhancing the overall user experience. Having listened to this soundtrack a few times, EA were wise to give Phillips the job.
Bright and breezy for the first five tracks, things take a mysterious, pan-Asian turn with the wonderful SporeZone. It reminded me of a lighter version of the kind of sounds you’d hear in many a Tartan Video release, and that’s no bad thing. Juxtapose that with the rampant rush of Monster Mayhem and Beast Brawl and you have a perfect idea of the range Philips is so clearly at ease with.
Again you can imagine the action on screen while listening to this track, all jumping, running and fighting. Following this is Sporeexplore, another jaunty, percussion-led piece that is different to anything heard before on the album, as is the delightful Wanderment.
The best piece of all comes courtesy of the orchestral Sporeward, which wouldn’t be out of place in any grandstanding Hollywood blockbuster. It reminded me very much of Thomas Newman’s work on the Road To Perdition. Evocative and theatrical, this is a supremely confident piece of work.
Yet, as different as all these tracks are, they still maintain a strong sense of coming from the same musical universe, which is important for any gaming soundtrack to work successfully. This is achieved in a different way to SimAnimals, which utilised elements of an overture throughout the entire soundtrack to pull everything together. Here, using the same sounds and instruments throughout the CD holds it together as a solid piece of united work.
Giving Phillips an opportunity to let fly on a gaming title that would require a range of compositions has provided EA with a soundtrack that has been nominated for a Hollywood Music in Media award. That this 18-track body of music manages to stand up as a great listen in its own right says all you needs to know about the quality on offer here.
Spore Hero soundtrack is available now.