Courtesy Souleye

One of the best things about indy platformer VVVVVV is its infectious chiptune music. It compliments the story of gravity-flipping Captain Veridian’s quest to rescue his crew from the 8-bit perils of the mysterious other dimension. Souleye, the composer, brilliantly uses the tools available in a minimal environment as much as the game itself does, building mood and driving the actions of the player without extraneous bombast. But more than underscoring the action, PPPPPP (the soundtrack) carries messages all its own, illustrated by the game and reaching beyond the screen into one’s life.

This sort of thing could simply be a case of me reading into things more deeply than I should, but it’s nonetheless interesting to me that this music worming into my ears has more to it than rhythms to which one taps the action button.

Pushing Onwards

As much as bits of this iconic tune of VVVVVV are borrowed from other themes, the message it conveys is clear in its title. As this music plays, the Captain is learning the ropes of the levels, flipping from floors to ceilings and back again, often running afoul of the hundreds of spikes littered throughout the corridors. Thanks to the checkpoints, however, Veridian is never stopped for long, unless you as the player pull the plug.

In other words, the only thing stopping you from pushing onwards is you.

Considering this is the first tune we hear in VVVVVV following the accident that strands Veridian and his crew, it has to immediately set the mood, as we don’t have voice acting or deep sound effect design. More than just creating atmosphere, however, Pushing Onwards gets us into the groove. It dares us to live up to its soars, to defy its lows, to overcome the obstacles before us and go further than we have before. Who couldn’t use a little bit of that sort of motivation in their daily lives?

Potential for Anything

The tools that produce this tune may be the same as those used throughout the game, but Potential for Anything moves at a slightly different pace, a more lyrical lilt than the straightforward grooviness of Pushing Onwards. It’s a bit more mysterious, a little esoteric. Like Pushing Onwards, the reasons are there in its title.

In the context of the game, it’s difficult to say what to expect as the player moves Captain Veridian from one screen to the next. It could be a straighforward dodge-the-spikes setup, or a wrinkle could be thrown in with disappearing platforms, or the word LIES may get in our way. It’s clear that Terry Cavanaugh saw this dimension as one full of potential, and he used it to create just about anything he could to present us with new mind-bending challenges. But again, I feel the music transcends its origins.

The fantasy bookstopper novel, the hand-drawn masterpiece, the epic hero on a harrowing quest – they all begin with a blank page. The same pulpy construct used to generate TPS reports, account audits and letters of termination also yeild escapes to our dearest fantasies or exploration of our darkest fears. A blank page holds, quite literally, a potential for anything.

These are just two examples from this surprisingly deep soundtrack, and both tracks are audible in the free demo of VVVVVV available on Kongregate & Steam. Check out the game, listen to the music, and make up your own mind.

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