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Skylanders: Swap Force by Lorne Balfe

Skylanders: Swap Force

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Skylanders: Swap Force (Soundtrack) by Lorne Balfe
Skylanders: Swap Force (Soundtrack) by Lorne Balfe
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skylanders: Swap Force (Soundtrack) by Lorne Balfe

Skylanders: Swap Force
Composed by Lorne Balfe
Activision (2013)

Rating: 5/10

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“Like the music for the previous two releases, SWAP FORCE is endlessly playful but it is a score that is heavily restricted by the nature of the SKYLANDERS games.”

The Limit's The Skies
Review by Richard Buxton

 

The ACTIVISION money train rolls ever onwards with the release of SKYLANDERS: SWAP FORCE - the third in the phenomenally successful SPYRO THE DRAGON reboot series -and with it comes LORNE BALFE’S third score release of the series. For those who find themselves outside the video-gaming loop, or those without children who happen to be clinically addicted to the Pokemon inspired collecting-based franchise, SKYLANDERS is a combination of video game visuals and physical toys that are connected through the use of near field communication, which sees those toys you purchase transported on to the screen and controlled by the players. Ultimately, SKYLANDERS is yet another gimmick with the sole aim of emptying the wallets of parents the world over, and to publisher Activision and the various development studios’ credit it’s one that is working tremendously well.

Having scored both SPYRO’S ADVENTURE and GIANTS, LORNE BALFE has returned for the third installment, SWAP FORCE. Like the music for the previous two releases, SWAP FORCE is endlessly playful but it is a score that is heavily restricted by the nature of the SKYLANDERS games. Like countless platformers before it, SWAP FORCE takes the player through various themed levels, and with each level comes differing musical thematic ideas. The style of gameplay within the platforming genre demands an open ended-musical structure, allowing the compositions to move along with the gameplay fittingly, despite a lack of rigid scripting within each level. This means that BALFE’S score rarely drops out, instead maintaining a consistent level of exuberance. Whilst suitable for the game itself, the score quickly becomes monotonous despite a noticeable restructuring on disc.

The configuration of each track is virtually the same, beginning with a bare minimum of layers, so as to introduce the chosen instrumentation, and a brief unveiling of the cue’s central theme, before a host of instruments enter the fore, leading into a climactic, arpeggio-laden performance of the theme with the entire musical arsenal in play. This tends to work better in some cases than others. When the theme is a relatively strong one, its structure is effective in creating anticipation for the finale. The main theme here, “The SWAP Force” (1) succeeds in following this blueprint successfully and without outstaying its welcome, bringing with it an exciting variation on the main theme as a climax. “A New Chieftess” (15) follows stuctural suit with its infectiously upbeat dance, as does “Farewell Baron” (8). This structure is hardly a new concept in video game music, it’s just that when it’s done well it becomes much less noticeable. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many of the cues in SWAP FORCE.

Much of the score, unlike the aforementioned cues, lacks the thematic strength and identity to last beyond an initial playthrough. Like GIANTS and SPYRO’S ADVENTURE before it, SWAP FORCE is made up of cues that are very generic, something that is not helped by the frequently abrasive electronics. The brass is often particularly guilty of sounding at odds with the rest of the instrumentation, making for a grating experience at times, as in “Motherly Mayhem” (16). Again, the brass heard towards the end of “Hidden Adventures”, a slow-paced variation of the main SWAP FORCE theme, (17) is similarly intrusive in the build towards the finale.

For those who found the previous two score releases to their tastes, SWAP FORCE is inevitably an easy recommendation. Otherwise, SWAP FORCE is a fitting accompaniment to the game, but its generally mediocre themes and overwhelming sweetness might be a little too much to digest; not that it matters much to ACTIVISION’S bank statements though.

 

Rating: 5/10


Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 The SWAP Force 2:12  ****
2 Braving Mount Cloudbreak 3:11  ***
3 Canopy Climb 2:35  ***
4 Welcome to Woodburrow 2:48  **
5 Rescue the Chieftess 2:21  **
6 Ride of Evil Glumshanks 1:33  ***
7 Iron Jaw Gulch 2:14  ***
8 Farewell Baron 2:35  ****
9 Suriving Motleyville 4:00  **
10 Dangerous Coils 2:07  ***
11 Serpent's Peak 2:27  ***
12 Frozen Galleries 2:51  ***
13 Fraser's Frosted Festival 2:125  ***
14 Fires of Fantasm Forest 1:50  ***
15 A New Chieftess 1:39  ****
16 Motherly Mayhem 2:19  ***
16 Hidden Adventures 3:35  **
  Total Running Time (approx) 43 minutes  

 

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