Skylanders -Spyro's Adventure- Official Orchestral Score :: Review by Chris
Activision's third reboot of the Spyro franchise, Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure, was rewarded with positive reviews thanks to its youthful gameplay and innovative gadgetry. As has become a trend in recent years, Activision decided to hire Remote Control Productions to score the title and even managed to convince its founder legendary film composer Hans Zimmer to create its main theme.
The "Skylanders Main Theme" reflects a softer side to Hans Zimmer following his epic themes for Modern Warfare 2 and Crysis 2. Clearly immersed into the world of Skylanders, Zimmer fills the theme with rich youthful melodies and worldly fantasy orchestrations. It's not massively original, but does what the developers intended by emulating the feel of a Disney movie in both style and production. To close the soundtrack, there is also a beautiful vocal version of the theme featuring an African child chorus. It's bound to inspire memories of his Oscar-winning score for The Lion King. While there are plenty of rousing segments in both themes, they nevertheless feel somewhat brief with their playtime of just two minutes a feature that holds true for much of the rest of the soundtrack.
Lorne Balfe is responsible for the various stage themes on Skylanders and tends to build on Zimmer's stylistic approach. For the first level, he captures the feeling of a rugged island with strummed guitars and tropical leads, while drawing kids into the experience with a simple but likeable melody. The much more calming "Perilous Pastures" is one of the tracks that really emphasises the feeling of floating above the clouds. But with its stereotyped orchestration and continuous melody, it slightly labours the ideas introduced earlier in the score. It would have been desirable if Balfe went beyond the two minute mark to really explore the potential of this theme.
Perhaps the most accomplished of these themes is "Exploring the Ruins". Here Balfe revisits the Skylanders main theme and presents it in a way suitable for continuous gameplay. The ethnic percussion rhythms give a sense of traversing ancient lands, while the shifts from minimal to bombastic orchestration reflects the huge scope of the areas like many of Stewart Copeland's classic tracks for the series did. The melody occasionally feels contrived, but it largely provides a satisfying centrepiece to tie the game together. Overall, the track has a powerful effect in context and is also a satisfying listen out of context, in part because it's one of the few tracks that develops extensively.
The game incorporates somewhat darker textures as it approaches its climax. Tracks such as "Stonetown" and "Arkeyam Armory" that are reminiscent of Zimmer's work on Pirates of the Caribbean with their punchy themes and bold orchestration. Meanwhile "Crawling Crypt" incorporates ghostly vocal sounds and distorted electronic effects, while "Cube Dungeon" shifts away from the thematic focus in favour of percussive rhythms. Nevertheless, Balfe avoids rocking the boat with any of these themes and always incorporates childish or heroic elements along the way. The result may patronise adult listeners, but it's better than scaring the kids...
Activision got the expected results by hiring Hans Zimmer to score Skylanders: a fitting and well-produced score with some star appeal. The hybridised orchestrations fit the game's world, while the melodies are likely to touch children and adults alike. However, the musical approach is a little too typical to stand out above other fantasy scores out there and, certainly, many long-time series' followers will miss Stewart Copeland's approaches. But it's the short track times and half hour playtime of the album as a whole that are most detrimental to the stand-alone experience. It's probably best to enjoy this music in context.
Overall Score: 6/10