Album Review: James Roach and Toby Fox – Hiveswap Act 1 OST

By Tanner Bidish, Visual Media Director
[What Pumpkin; 2017]
Rating: 7.5/10

Key Tracks: “Jude Harley, Bizzarely”, “SPORTS! Personally, I Love Them”, “Intermission 1”

Indie games have always had a pension for revealing hidden truths, whether it pertains to gaming or the existential dread that is imbued into the human experience, especially when it comes to the soundtrack. Indie projects of the past five years have been increasingly pushing the envelope of sound and storytelling. From the cityscape jazz in Darren Korb’s Transistor, to the blips of Disasterpeace’s Hype Light Drifter OST, or even the homey tunes from Alec Holowka’s Night in the Woods – artists are constantly proving that what you’re playing and what you’re listening to are equally as important.

This isn’t news to Toby Fox, who has already made his name a staple of this theme with the release of Undertale. Joined by James Roach, the pair has crafted yet another video game soundtrack that seamlessly falls into the canon that is quickly becoming a golden age of gaming tunes.

Hiveswap is the crowdfunded video game from What Pumpkin Studios and Andrew Hussie. In a lot of ways, it’s carrying on the torch of Homestuck, Hussie’s webcomic that – after seven years – concluded in April of 2016. The game has a similar artistic feel, world design, and even sound. It’s no surprise too, considering Fox had written music for the comic on several occasions. There’s a whimsical draw to each. Synthetically produced instruments chariot along both journeys in beats of heroism and defeat. However, they differ too. While Homestuck triumphed in epic moments, the draw in Hiveswap’s soundscape excels in atmospheres.

There are ominous strings to put the player in a sleuthing mood; flutes for awe, with a speckle of blips and boops for fun; a towering piano throughout “Bedroom for an Annoying Dog” creating lurking dread; “Table for Tooth” rails up the momentum introducing elements of electronica and rock in the first half of the record. Fans of the genre can expect tunes to back of deft absconds and perilous strife. The adventure charted through the track is varied and entertaining, with “Intermission 1” pounding out huge suspense in the closing movements of the album.

It’s not as nostalgic as Undertale, but Fox and Roach still strike a heartfelt chord. While Hiveswap Act 1 OST doesn’t echo the Homestuck soundtracks of the late 00s and early 10s, it still pays them homage and creates a new atmosphere for a new set of adventures. There’s enough for players and listeners to love while having more to look forward to.

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