It's the time of the year when the days get shorter, retailers stay open longer, big games are released and there seems to be a holiday every other week. Defunct Games wants to ring in this festive season with a look at the most memorable video game themes of all time. For five weeks straight, Cyril Lachel and Kevin Bailey will share their thoughts on themes from the last thirty years. Join us every day between November 22 and December 25 for The 34 Game Themes of Christmas!
[ Company: Rockstar Games | Year: 2006 | Console: PlayStation 2 ]
When it was first announced, Bully was deemed a "Columbine simulator" by some of the more reactionary members of the media. As it turns out, this T-rated Rockstar release is as tame as The Breakfast Club. Bully is the kind of coming-of-age story you rarely see even attempted in modern video games. It has a likeable protagonist who gets into a world of good-natured trouble. He may not be as violent as Niko Bellic or John Marston, but James Hopkins can definitely hold his own.
I hate to sound like Captain Obvious, but the Bully soundtrack reminds me of the wonderful work Mark Mothersbaugh has done with Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, etc.). There's a retro vibe running through this theme. Composer Shawn Lee flirts with Esquivel's space-age bachelor pad. Thankfully he doesn't quite go all the way, pulling back just before the surf guitar and tambourine sends us into the land of kitsch. The melody is relentless. When the xylophone isn't speeding things along, the guitar steps in to keep the pace alive. This is a theme that will grab your attention from the first note and never let go. There's a little bit of danger in these two minutes, but not in a sinister or threatening way. It's good-natured, just like the game. Bully's theme rivals anything Danny Elfman has produced.
This might well be the best theme for Christmas that wasn't actually meant to be for Christmas. Bully's theme has a certain winter holiday feel to it. More importantly to the game, it has a very mischievous tone. The various parts of the song feel to me like the plotting, sneaking about, and execution of a genius prank. The inverted bass line gives me the feeling that someone is up to no good, and the xylophone gives off both the wintery feeling and the vision of some naughty kids sneaking around to set up and execute their prank. Although there is a fair bit of movement and progression to this theme, my only complaint is that it does occasionally feel repetitive, and the xylophone, though used to great effect, does get tiring to my ears. Overall, this theme really is a great fit for the game.
Tomorrow we rest. After five long weeks, we're finally to the end of the 34 Theme Songs of Christmas. Expect a full recap in the next few days, along with a full year's worth of amazing video game articles, features, reviews and comedy in 2013. If you missed any of these 34 days, then I recommend you double back to the 34 Theme Songs of Christmas archive and start from the beginning!