Skullmonkeys – “She Reminded Me With Science” (Terry S. Taylor)December 13, 2009
Skullmonkeys (PS1, 1998) is one of those games that came out in the mid-90s that had really good art design but really generic gameplay. Skullmonkeys used sprites generated from images of claymation, producing a really gorgeous graphical style. Though this type of experimental graphic style can be matched with the Donkey Kong Country series, which used sprites generated from prerendered graphics, the claymation style is something that’s a little underused. Couple this with the awesome concept of Skullmonkeys – that is, monkeys who instead of regular heads have skulls for heads (and with a holographic cover no less!) – and you would think this would be a really cool game. Sadly, the gameplay did not stand up to the graphics – it’s a pretty generic platformer, suggesting the developers focused all their budget on creating really cool graphics without putting much thought into level design. Thankfully, Terry S. Taylor’s soundtrack also builds off the graphical style, and is an entertaining listen.
The Skullmonkeys theme has a really slick bass guitar lead. The ape chanting chanting ‘chorus line’ fills out the middle, evoking an anarchic festival of the godless apes that roam this distant world, jumping out of rock caves and causing all kinds of mischief. There’s also a great break midway through. Of course, there is some high-pitched singing here too, which gives it a lighthearted and exotic feel (maybe somewhere equatorial?) – and let’s not forget the nice lazy accordion! Finally, the grainy audio here is purposeful – it is used to match the grainy feel of the claymation. The track plays on the first level, the Science Center.
Many of the other tracks on the album are insane cartoon pieces, some of which are ridiculously funny (such as the infamous “The Lil’ Bonus Room” and “Monk Rushmore (Presidential Funky Monkey)” with the titular lyrics – yes there are plenty of lyrics). It’s out of print, but once in awhile a copy will show up on ebay for about $40-$50 (there’s a factory sealed copy on there now for $42 – MSRP was $20).
This song is from Terry S. Taylor’s Imaginarium, a two-disc set containing the soundtrack to Skullmonkeys and The Neverhood, the first title in the series. The original print in 2000 was succeeded by the superior 2004 print, which contained eight bonus tracks and additional liner notes with some great information on how the songs were composed (Terry S. Taylor tends to simply compose on the fly rather than write out sheet music). The 2000 print has an interesting minimalist 70s rock-style cover, but the 2004 print feels more sophisticated and artsy, as it’s an oil painting by Doug TenNapel (the designer of Earthworm Jim – incidentally, many of the developers of Earthworm Jim also participated in the Neverhood Chronicles). Still, they’re both good covers. BTW, the scans from the 2004 version are from my brother’s copy! Create an account and check ’em out – there’s a fantastic set of liner notes.