Posted 2020-10-27, evaluated by Rexy
DarkSim (Jack Humphreys) returns after a six-year hiatus with a catchy synthwave take on Pinball Dreams' (Amiga) "Nightmare" themes, and has a thing or two to say:
"Hello again, it's been a few years since my last ReMix, however what with COVID-19 keeping us inside more than usual, I thought I'd revisit a project I'd long wanted to complete.
I remember buying this game for my dad's birthday back in the early 90s. We both got hundreds of hours of enjoyment out of the 4 well-designed tables, excellent ball physics (sadly absent in ported versions), and of course, the music. When my dad hooked up some stereo speakers to the TV for the first time - wow! Going from mono to stereo and hearing Olof Gustafsson's work in all its glory was a defining moment in my young life as to how good game music could be.
Now, nearly 30 years later, I have revisited the music of Pinball Dreams and not only does it sound as good as ever, but I've been listening to synthwave mixes almost exclusively for the past few months, and it gave me the inspiration to finally get this track over the line. I've also been wondering about gaming history - who was Olof Gustafsson? Where is he now? Whatever happened to Digital Illusions, the company behind this game? Well - to my surprise, it turns out that the "DI" in "DICE" (yeah, that DICE) stands for Digital Illusions, who have since gone on to become a AAA game studio with IPs like Battlefield, Need for Speed, and Star Wars: Battlefront. Way back in 1992 however, Olof Gustafsson and 3 friends emerged from the Amiga demoscene and founded a small company in Sweden, initially publishing their critically-acclaimed first title: Pinball Dreams. From a historical perspective, then, I feel like a Pinball Dreams ReMix on OCR would be quite fitting, given the legacy left in the game's wake. Gustafsson himself has since left DICE, but is still composing music for video games.
On to the ReMix itself then! I'd like to give a shout out to Instant Remedy for already making an amazing remix of the in-play theme from the Nightmare table, so if you want more Pinball Dreams stuff, then definitely check out his SoundCloud. The theme I chose to remix was that sought-after "High Score" music, but then I also threw in the main table intro music during a breakdown. Modern synthwave has a particular aesthetic, which I was trying to evoke with my sound design, whilst also trying to allow the funkiness and swaggering groove of the original source to shine through.
I can't really emphasise enough how impressive the original source music is, and indeed a lot of the old demoscene music. I have Romeo Knight's track "Enigma Gun" as the ringtone on my phone, so I guess the influence has always been there in my music, and it's nice to pay homage to that in some small way."
C64, Amiga, & demoscene stuff is kind of an "alternate retro path to VGM" that some took - while many (most?) grew fond of VGM through Japanese consoles, particularly in Europe there's a sizable contingent who grew up w/ home computers as their primary source of VGM inspiration, and it's always cool to see that represented. Jack's story about his dad hooking the stereo up reminds me of recording the output from my Sega Master System to tape and adding radio callouts in between each cut when I was ten or so; good times. I didn't know the background on the "DI" in DICE being this developer, so that was also an interesting gaming history tidbit. As for the mix - smooth, silky, and more of the reflective/chill variety of synthwave than the driving/pulsing "Outrun" style, I'd say. Rexy evaluated:
"Oh, sweet - Pinball Fantasies was my flipper-busting jam back in the day, so it's no surprise to know that Olof Gustafsson created some equally fun compositions for the original title. They have more of an emphasis on texture rather than melody, and that's what Jack set out to do - taking the 1980s synth aesthetic and cranking it up to 11!
The arrangement approach is a conservative one - dominantly the high score source, keeping the chords and general idea for the melody and arps. And yet, he added loads of variation with the percussion writing, layered pads, and ear-tickling basslines underneath it all. Adding the table intro at 1:35 on top was also a smart move to add some sonic variation while mashing the two sources together for that brief minute. It melodically sticks close to the core source since with the melody and arp throwbacks, and the run-through at 4:19 did reprise previously established ideas from 2:34 and 0:55 in sequence. But the shaping in the break and gradual build back into the beat set up a satisfying recapitulation otherwise.
That sound design is also great - hits so many synthwave tropes all in one, from the punchy down-tuned drums to the variety of rich synths available, all with some smooth volume and pitch articulations at work. Effect work is on point, with careful reverb, side-chaining and high-pass filter application on display. All this attention to detail and the mixdown remains clean and precise - a sign that Jack has retained a lot of his skills within the 6-year gap since he last got posted here. Such a well-designed homage!"
Roger all that; insightful analysis as per usual from Bev. Not much to add, but I'd love to hear more synthwave in general & more from DarkSim in particular, it's great to see him submitting more music after several years, and it's additionally cool to have this popular throwback pinball title represented on the site - enjoy!
on 2020-11-08 18:39:40
Nice track. Had been listening to it for quite a while until I realised something was special about this. Highly recommended!
on 2020-10-31 07:19:44
hell yeah moar pinball dreams, fantasies illusions remix plz!
on 2020-10-28 12:08:04
I was sold as soon as I saw the synthwave tag. This doesn't disappoint!
on 2020-10-26 10:28:31
What did you think? Post your opinion of this ReMix.
Sources Arranged (2 Songs)
- Primary Game:
Pinball Dreams (21st Century Entertainment, 1992, AMIGA)
Music by Olof Gustafsson
- "Nightmare High Score"
- Pop, Synthwave
- Chiptune, Electronic, Synth
- Time > 4/4 Time Signature
- 9,195,580 bytes
- Size: 9,195,580 bytes
- MD5 Checksum: 7389de1c38b60394f5a44ce68745efc1
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