In the ‘90s, there was a cartoon called Scholastic’s The Magic School Bus. The students from a class of a certain eccentric individual by the name of Miss Frizzle used the bus to travel into the depths of science and had adventures not undeserving of Indiana Jones himself. Let’s subtract Miss Frizzle, put the whole scientific affair in brackets and add one psychofan of Lord Vader, and we will get nothing else than Crossing Souls. Scored by Chris Köbke and Timecop1983.
As you probably predict, this pixel-art adventure game was founded on nostalgia. This is also true about the music; Chris Köbke (Berlin-based composer/orchestrator/arranger) and Timecop1983 (Dutch producer specialising in synthwave) rewind the clock and take us back in time a couple of decades. To do so, they reach for aforementioned synthwave and something like „Williamswave” (meaning nothing else than music heavily inspired by and reminiscing of John Williams’ ‘80s and ‘90s film scores). Their joint effort, despite being imitative and perhaps being perceived as dissonant – a mixture of orchestra and synthwave – seems to have produced a soundtrack in which the styles get along really well. In the game itself, the music also works properly.
This is not as much of a time machine as it is a capsule.
The biggest crime of this soundtrack is the epigonic nature of it. Although this argument does not apply to Timecop1983’s music (because it would lead to putting his artistic identity to question, which is not the topic here), it’s easy to criticize Chris’s score. His musical signature is, in a way, uneven – sometimes there’s no doubt about his input, and other times, it drowns in between Williams-ish sforzandos and figurations. This is not as much of a time machine as it is a capsule, and those are not characterized by setting new trends or standards. They’re like tour guides, bringing you time and time again to the same places. It would be nice to get off the track sometimes, and even more so, because the gameplay of Crossing Souls features interesting, refreshing mechanics, such as controlling multiple characters at once. So in this context, there comes a certain disappointment….
…disappointment, which would suggest questioning John Williams and Brad Fiedel (Terminator), rather than the game’s scoring duet. Even more so when the screen welcomes the ominous Major Oh Rus and we get a chance to listen to his theme – that’s practically The Imperial March! On the other hand, more original tracks (such as Shen Lee’s Antiques, The Case of the Goldfield Bridge or Ennio Maccaroni’s Song) also come across as imitative – just in a different way. But the criticism can only go so far, because the game takes shelter in the idea of a pastiche. This two-layer shield (nostalgia and pastiche) ably deflects any aforementioned accusations, but unfortunately it does not guarantee that the test of time will be passed.
The biggest crime of this soundtrack is the epigonic nature of it.
Crossing Souls will definitely scratch the itch of nostalgia-hungry gamers and listeners. Like the famous Delorean time machine, it takes us back in time to the ‘80s and ‘90s and is a boredom-proof album. Though, more experienced music lovers and connoisseurs, rather than the German-Dutch duet, will probably choose Home Alone, Harry Potter or perhaps Star Wars – with Terminator as an entrée. It would be unfair to bully those who made such choices; if the reviewed OST doesn’t pass the test of time, it will be due to the authors’ blurry initials. Or maybe should I put my glasses on?