Those of you who read our recent review of Transistor already know how much we adored playing through SuperGiant Games' second release. This game features a gorgeous art style, unique blend of various RPG elements and a beautifully vague plot, but it's the soundtrack that really weaves it all together into what we'd call one of the best games we've played all year. Darren Korb, who previously composed the award-winning soundtrack to Bastion, returned to offer a brand new sound that perfectly accompanies the game's core themes and tone. SuperGiant Games has released 23 of these songs as an official soundtrack. Here are some of our thoughts on this release and how important Korb's pieces and Ashley Barrett's vocals were to the world of Transistor.
The game's soundtrack is unmistakably Korb's work, though its overall style and tone are quite different from Bastion's sound, which had more of a Western vibe to it. The Transistor soundtrack focuses heavily on the game's cyber-noir setting, blending jazzy tunes with electronic sounds that convey the contrast between Red, a vibrant young singer, and the digital soullessness of The Process that threatens to consume the city of Cloudbank. The track “Vanishing Point,” for example, begins very reminiscent of the original Legend of Zelda's dungeon theme, before being interrupted by an unnatural, purely electronic sound. These two forces play over each other for the remainder of the piece, as though competing for dominance.
“Gold Leaf” begins with a standard jazz melody, but a faint 'whining' can soon be heard in the background. Initially reminiscent of a cat's meow or a distant call, this noise builds in volume as it bounces around the track. It's a subtle touch, but one that leaves the listener with unsettling images of those who are being swallowed by The Process crying out, the increase in volume possibly signifying their ever-growing despair. On the other hand, “Dormant” takes a different approach, bringing its thick, heavy tones to the forefront in order to convey the massive threat pursuing Red.
During gameplay, players can push a button to have Red hum along to most every song while not in battle. During combat, activating a turn will usually result in these alternative versions being played automatically. Unfortunately, the soundtrack omits these renditions entirely and SuperGiant has stated that they don't currently have any plans of officially releasing them. Same goes for the “processed” versions of certain songs.
Korb's fantastic compositions aside, it's Ashley Barrett's portrayal of Red that really makes Transistor's soundtrack stand out. The official release features five vocal pieces performed by Barrett, including the full version of “We All Become,” which was used to tease fans during a trailer a few months back. Other vocal tracks include “The Spine,” “In Circles,” a haunting melody used during the game's first boss battle (which is also this reviewer's personal favorite), “Paper Boats” from the game's ending credits and “Signals,” a bonus track.
Each piece touches upon one of the game's central themes, whether it be longing and loneliness or individuality and expression. Overall, Barrett gives an incredibly solid performance on each of her songs, and really manages to bring the soulful Red to life, an essential part of the game's immersion and lasting appeal.
The official Transistor soundtrack can be downloaded for $9.99, with a physical CD costing $14.99. This is a great release for those who loved SuperGiant Games' latest title. That said, die hard fans will have a hard time getting over some of the soundtrack's glaring omissions, which may be a deal breaker for some.
+ Each song carries the game's emotional weight with it
+ Style focuses on rich jazz and eerie digitized beats
+ Ashley Barrett gives a wonderful performance as Red
- Red's humming is absent from the album
- Processed versions like "_n C_rcl_s" are also missing