It’s finally here! The end of the year is upon us, and so is award season. At the end of each year, I, as do many others, enjoy taking a look back at the previous months and giving the top-performers their due. Each year at HippoChippies, ten games are awarded in traditional “Game of the Year” fashion, but this year we have some surprises! Along with our top ten, we’re also dolling out awards in some new categories for the site, but ones you’ll hopefully enjoy reading as much as I have putting them together. The top ten will still be rolling out, but will be peppered in with the rest of the year’s recognition. We’re starting off today with 2014’s Best Use of Music.
“Best Use of Music” is a different award than “Best Song.” For the purposes of this award, I’m defining “Use of Music” as a song being used well for a specific purpose, rather than just being a well-made or catchy track. These songs are still good, but there’s a separate “Best Song” award for a reason. These tracks were used in a time and place to establish a mood or evoke a feeling in the player, and were dropped at just the right time to do so. Let’s get started.
#3 – Hubol’s 2: Sunlight and I Love You
When you take a dive into the colorful cavern’s of 2, a familiar track begins. A distorted version of Tiny Tim’s “Living in the Sunlight” kicks in. It’s a short loop, only clocking in at 37 seconds, but it does it’s job. 2 is a great, weird game, and this song sets the tone early on for what the hours ahead will be taking you through.
One of the things that makes 2 so great, is how unafraid Hubol is to make a million tiny diversions that all leave a huge impression. The “I LOVE YOU” room is a perfect example. You’ll stumble across a small room in the shape of a heart with hearts flying everywhere. That’s cute already, but hanging around in the room will let you listen to a remix of that sickeningly cute Lil B song, “I Love You”, now featuring C418. If you didn’t sit in that room and listen to the entire song while bouncing around the hearts, well, we play games very differently.
2 has some of the most memorable musical moments of the year, and you’re missing out if you haven’t played it. Thank you Based Hubol.
#2 – The Evil Within: Clair de Lune
The Evil Within is an oppressive game. Chainsaw maniacs are out to get you, and every corner hides another enemy waiting to jump from the shadows. Whenever you’re close to a point of respite, a place to save, you hear the wonderful melody of Clair de Lune. It’s one of my favorite uses of music in any game I’ve played, and I was impressed and relieved every time I heard that familiar melody. Clair de Lune becomes a security blanket, one of few faithful friends who never leads you astray. As you close in on a safe house, the music gets louder, the sound drowns out the screams of devils, and you’re filled with the rush of euphoria from the security. Using a melody as a synonym for safety is one of the smartest design decisions in any game I played this year.
#1 – Dark Souls 2: King Vendrick
If you haven’t finished Dark Souls 2, first off, what are you even doing. Second, go play it before you finish reading this unless you want one of the most powerful moments in the game ruined.
If you ask anyone to talk about the music in Dark Souls 2, they’re going to mention the moment they found King Vendrick. You’ve taken out the last line of defense in the crypt between the ultimate end of your journey to “seek the king.” There’s only a fog wall between you and him, signifying a boss fight. You walk up to it, and then this track hits. What could be behind that door, it has to be the king we came here to find, right? And then you see Vendrick’s husk. He’s nothing but a shell, and seems to have been down here for a long time. Similarly to the track during final fight with Gwyn in DS1, Dark Souls never lets you feel like the better person. You’ve come here to end someone’s suffering, not to be the next action hero. While the story and lore of Dark Souls goes over the heads’ of many people (including me, my first time through the first game), there’s a deeply tragic tale there. Even if you hadn’t followed the story in Dark Souls 2 to that point, seeing a frail old man limp around the room to a sad piano track is an image that you won’t forget. It’s my favorite singular moment tied to game’s music this year, and is just one amazing part of an already amazing game.