Listen and download:
This is the soundtrack to a VVVVVV mod I made: distractionware.com/forum/index.php?topic=3388.msg34661
The mod is a new campaign. The goal was to have a more character-driven narrative than the original game. The soundtrack is darker and harsher than the original VVVVVV soundtrack to match, though there are still a few references.
Tracks 3 and 9 contain sampled and melodically referenced content from “PPPPPP” by Magnus Pålsson.
- The Mind Engine: A simple ambient piece to start things off and set the mood.
- Once More: I could’ve just had this track be simple static, but I wanted to create a sound distinctive enough for the callback at the end of “The Inner Stronghold” to work.
- Spacequake: If you listen closely, this track actually has a melodic reference to “Passion for Exploring”, the overworld theme from VVVVVV. Fittingly, it plays in the overworld here as well.
- Undiscovered Section: It’s a shame that this track doesn’t get much playtime in-game; the saw waves in the second half are pretty neat! The static-y noise running through the track has its volume randomly modulated at random intervals, creating a choppy feel.
- Indigo Traps: The drums in this track are in a different time signature than the piano, causing them to drift in and out of sync. This foreshadows the extensive use of this technique in “The Dimensional Siphon” immediately afterward.
- The Dimensional Siphon: This was a difficult track for me to write. I wanted to create a theme for the Siphon so I could bring it and “The Survivor’s Theme” together for “The Inner Stronghold”, but how do you write a theme for a machine? I was at a loss for awhile, but then by chance I learned about Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports”, which uses a set of tape loops to cause notes to play slowly and repeatedly. Crucially, each loop is a different length, causing notes to play in different combinations. I realized that allowing math to create the melody instead of my intention was the perfect way to represent a machine, so I replicated this setup in software. “The Dimensional Siphon” is less ambient than “Music for Airports”; each note has a very clearly-defined attack, and the loops are aligned to an underlying pulse. This means that sometimes there are clusters of rapid-fire notes. However, none of these clusters are very big; there are only five loops running, which prevents the track from feeling too chaotic. The only issue with this technique is ending the track; letting it run until every loop resets would take super long and thus be impractical. In this soundtrack, it simply fades out. In-game, I decided to embrace the artifice and jarringly loop in the middle of a cluster, foreshadowing the glitchy elements later in the game. (It’s also worth noting that the cutscene this plays in is likely to end before the track loops anyway.)
- Unstable World: This whole area is inspired by level 4 from Downwell, so naturally the music takes inspiration from “Broken ghost”, which plays in that level.
- The Survivor’s Theme: There’s a persistent 3-note ostinato running through most of this track. It sounds a bit like a radar beeping or something, and represents the fact that the Survivor is only spoken to remotely for much of the level. The distorted section in the middle was made by drastically reducing the audio’s bit depth. Reverb and a lowpass filter are applied AFTER the bitcrusher, keeping it from sounding too harsh.
- NO SIGNAL: VVVVVV’s “Pipe Dream” is stretched waaaay out and used as a background texture for this track, symbolizing Unshackled’s corruption of the original game’s happy ending. Aside from that, the level and music are inspired by the Space area from The Floor is Jelly. “NO SIGNAL” is comprised of 8 different music cues (7 looping, one for the end). Unfortunately, I ended up making these ambient pieces longer than necessary, so the player will only hear a small part of each. Aaaaand that’s why this track is twelve and a half minutes long!
- The Inner Stronghold: Each successive track in Unshackled is generally harsher than the last, and this track is the end of that progression. No holds barred! The notes for “The Survivor’s Theme” mention me making a decision to “keep it from sounding too harsh”. No such decisions were made here. This track features: dynamics compressed to hell, horrid screeching in the upper frequencies, and chaotic grinding noises. It sounds awful. It makes me physically ill to listen to. And that’s good! It’s not meant to sound pleasant. This music represents first a terrible dilemma, and second a dying world. This track also quotes “The Dimensional Siphon” and “The Survivor’s Theme”, because it plays over the crucial interaction between the two. After the Siphon is turned on, “The Survivor’s Theme” is reduced to the ostinato and “The Dimensional Siphon” becomes harsher and more prominent, representing Viridian making their choice.
- Unshackled: A sparser version of “The Mind Engine” that serves as a bookend for everything. After the noisy chaos of “The Inner Stronghold”, it provides a chance to reflect.