Hello and welcome back to P-Vock's Music Box, the weekly blog where I dig deep into my musical backlog to help get you set for the weekend. It's almost Halloween, which means this is my final spooky-themed blog post. As I've mentioned, this has been a fun challenge to provide some unique tunes themed around the ghoulish season. Thankfully, there are tons of Halloween-themed levels within various video games that can scratch that itch (and I have fought myself every week to not just drop the Pumpkin Hill rap from Sonic Adventure 2 or Halloweentown from Kingdom Hearts, which was the hardest challenge I've ever had). I think I've found two more unique tracks from a modern retro-inspired indie classic.
2014's Shovel Knight (Fuck, how has it been that long already?) was an instant hit as soon as it began its crowdfunding campaign. In an era oversaturated with brown and grey shooters that may as well have just been a freakin' movie they had so many overdramatic cutscenes, a callback to the challenging and rewarding sidescrollers of decades prior was exactly what a lot of people were yearning for. Thankfully, the game delivered and then some. Its gameplay was incredible, the characters were memorable, the stages and gimmicks were excellent, and the music was absolutely phenomenal. Let's dig in shall we?
Shovel Knight gives us two stages that call back to classic horror tropes. First up, we have the Explodatorium, the lair of Plague Knight. A mad scientist creating God knows what in his alchemical lab that throws explosive and poisonous concoctions at anyone who tries to stop him sounds straight out of a B-movie horror plot. He may be physically weak, short, and incredibly shy, but PK is fearless, reckless, and has probably taken enough Adderall to spend all night hitting the potion research harder than a college student hitting the books two days before a final. His stage's music? Oh yeah, it hits real hard, so I'll shut up and let you have a listen.
This has the exact kind of spooky atmosphere combined with frantic energy you'd find in a classic Castlevania title, and that is absolutely a good thing. As you destroy Plague boy's minions (or get destroyed because this game ain't easy), this music motivates you to never stop and perfectly captures the mood of a spooky laboratory stage. Now, would you believe me if I said this was one of the weaker tracks in this OST? Yeah, this soundtrack is pretty freakin' stellar. Our next stage really hits and stands as one of the absolute best works in this soundtrack. So now, I will welcome you to the Lich Yard, home of Specter Knight.
Oh damn, you know it's serious business when we break out the French for a title. Specter Knight is the best character in Shovel Knight. His tragic backstory, awesome design, unflinching cruelty, and incredible stage allow him to shine as one of the most memorable villains in the medium. This grim reaper-looking lad also has a tragic backstory, because of course he does, and was given what many consider the best stage in the game. Though, I wonder how many just love the stage because of the music. My God, the music really is excellent. If I thought Plague Knight's theme gave me Castlevania vibes, Donovan here has a stage theme that actually just feels ripped right out of the classic CV title we never got. It's dark, ominous, and pumps you up to destroy the army of the dead. I think it was a fantastic track to help us end the spooky month. Both of these characters became so iconic that they would end up getting their own playable campaigns. Plague of Shadows was a good time, but Specter of Torment might have even been better than the base game. I think part of what made these characters so beloved was their stages and the wonderful music that accompanied them.
Alright, so we've reached the end of this Hallowed month. I truly do hope you've enjoyed the selections I provided for October as it really was a fun challenge for me. Please do stay safe this Halloween, and I'll see you right back here next week with another fantastic selection from my music box.