2013 IGF Finalists: Excellence in Audio

Bad Hotel

Much like the rest of the games in this list of finalists, Bad Hotel ties its audio into the game as much as possible. Rather than track layering or placing great period songs everywhere, however, it uses relatively standard tower-defense mechanics to fuel a generative audio system that is incredibly interesting. You make your own songs by playing the game rather than adding to an existing song. And it is quite the fun game to boot.

Bad Hotel follows you as you take over the hotel business from an entrepreneur. You must defend your hotels from crazed men, birds with bombs, aliens, and other sorts of things that can destroy them. In order to do so you must build rooms for your guests – the standard blank room is the only way to make money – as well as defensive rooms to protect them. Stay alive long enough and the assault on your bastion of hospitality ends and you can progress to the next level.

The reason why Bad Hotel is here in the audio finalists is the generative audio system that plays with all the components you add to your hotel. The base hotel starts at a particular note, and going up or down plays notes above or below the one you start at. As you can attach rooms to other rooms, you can quickly create a hotel that looks more like a piano roll than an actual hotel, creating interesting songs while defending your property from the enemies attempting to destroy it. This system, while simple, is very engaging and fun and makes replays of levels worthwhile. After all, you might want to try creating a different song. You can get Bad Hotel form the iOS App Store.

Hotline Miami

If you haven’t played Hotline Miami yet, you really need to. That’s really all there is to it. It was one of the best games – indie or otherwise – to be released in 2012, and its spot here in the Excellence in Audio finalist list is very well-deserved. Hotline Miami drips with style from every pore, and the most self-evident aspect of that style is in the soundtrack and how it is used.

You play as an unnamed man (known as Jacket to players, thanks to his distinctive jacket) during the summer of 1989 as he receives cryptic orders from a mysterious group. These orders lead him to buildings overflowing with Russian mobsters, which he must take out as quickly and brutally as possible. The simple concept is enhanced by thorough use of surrealism, unreliable perspective, and ambiguous plot details. The end result is a game that captures the essence of how we see the 80s, rather than how it actually was – an immoral neon urban wasteland of conspiracies and violence.

The most important aspect of this aesthetic, interestingly enough, is the music. Developer Dennaton set out to find musicians that capture the synth-laden, bass-heavy beats of the late 1980s, and they succeeded. Artists like Perturbator, Jasper Byrne, and MOON provide Hotline Miami with a soundtrack that fits both the game and the setting. It isn’t just the songs, however: Without the expert placement of tracks throughout Hotline Miami – every track perfectly fits its level or environment – the soundtrack would simply be good songs without context. Thankfully, Dennaton matched the songs perfectly. You can buy Hotline Miami on Steam.

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