Hitting the High Notes - Wizball!

By Andrew Merman Fisher

This time we listen to an innovative and complex soundtrack from one of the best C64 games of all time - WIZBALL, and its amazing aural ambience provided by Martin Galway.


BOUNCY BEGINNINGS

The nine sub-tunes from the game can be split into two main categories, the funky and the floating. From the STIL (SID Tune Information List) we also find out how Chris Yates and Jon Hare of Sensible Software provided Martin with inspiration, playing riffs on their guitars (with the amps at very high volume).
For real purists, the Project: Galway CD lets you hear the tunes as Martin heard them, recorded from his original SID chip.


CATALITE C.D.’S

The first BACK IN TIME CD gives us the Spiral of Fire mix, which sticks close to the original with some nice echoing voices and a good transition between the two sections of the theme. Gareth Dolloway takes over for Wizball 2000 on the second CD, and this is a great dance remix with two very different elements. The first half adds the beats and some superb extra melodies (and makes good use of the sound FX from the original game), while the darker second half takes its cue from Tomb Raider and Enya.

It’s Gareth who is also behind the completely different emotions of the high score theme on BACK IN TIME 3. Subtitled The Celebrations, we are treated to a very bouncy drum beat and a vocal interpretation of the melody. And then Kenz whispers filth raid, leading us into the bonus subtune. Back to the high score theme, we get some sampled cheers and fade to the finish. It’s a nice contrast to the heavier, emotion-led tracks that have gone before.

Marcel Donné adds his Jarre touch to the high score tune for SIDOLOGIE, making it sound like the Band in the Rain track. The simulated rainstorm and reed organ give it a lot of atmosphere, but it only lasts a minute - which is a real shame.

Reyn Ouwehand tackles both the title and in-game tunes on his GALWAY REMIXED CD. The title tune starts off really well; a pounding dance rhythm joins in and carries the tune along nicely up till the second section of the original. Then a different drumbeat takes over behind the descending notes. The in-game remix starts with the swirling sounds of the bonus tune, then a nice rhythm kicks in with some great keyboard fills. The layers of sound build up to the authentic explosion sound, and a very quiet rendition of the high-score tune appears behind the twinkling sounds. Overall, a good effort from Reyn that could have been better.

PRESS PLAY ON TAPE give us the guitar-crazy Game Over tune and the Latin rhythms of the high score tune on their second CD, RUN/STOP RESTORE. They stick close to the original, but I get the feeling they could do a lot more with it (like their live version at Back in Time Brighton).

KARMA 64 from Slow Poison has the title tune in a Video mix. A funky drumbeat underlies the familiar swirling chords, and the sounds are very chilled. The second half has a more robotic/electronic feel about it. It makes for a different interpretation to what has gone before. Another rendition by Chris Abbott appears on CRYSTAL DREAMSCAPES, a soothing cosmic remix of the title tune called INTO THE LIGHT.


MAGICAL MIXES

RKO gives us fifteen hits for wizball... and an additional hit for wizzball.

We’ll start off with MistaDistah’s two mixes of subtune 2, which are a nice idea that doesn’t really work. The Bhangra Gumbo and Orchestral Bouncy remixes rely on the orchestral stabs, single notes designed to sound like an orchestra playing – which doesn’t add a lot to the good background tracks.

Jazzoid gives us the full guitar intro mix, which covers the first section of the title tune with some amazing guitar licks. It’s just a shame that it is only one section of the tune. Gustav Taxen’s Electronica gives us an impressive wall of ambient, atmospheric noises – but it would have been nice to hear the melody a bit higher in the mix.

Slumgud also tackles the title tune, with a strong dance beat and some improvisation around the main theme.

Slow Poison’s New Age mix is another one I like - particularly the change from the first section to the second section of the tune, which sounds really good here.

Now onto the high score tune, with its Latin rhythms. Yoshi’s mix sounds like a fairground, but is let down by a poor lead voice. Will Morton’s cruise-ship style remix is better without adding much to the original, while Trace uses a heavy bass and some thumping extra drums to beef up his mix.

I was disappointed with Reyn Ouwehand’s attempt. The accordion starts off the mix with a nice French flavour, but the whole thing is let down by the second half when the piano joins in. And THC Flatline pushes the tempo a bit faster and adds some drum & bass style, which ultimately sounds out of place.

LMan drops in the get ready noises at the start and end of his version, which has a very nice rhythm including some great handclaps. Eric Delos emphasises the Latin feeling of the tune with his Bossa Mix, which gets better as it goes along – the improvisation in the second half of the tune really works, while the choice of instruments is spot on.

Mark Gornall’s Sax Solo version also impressed me. Despite one or two places where the lead is off-key or off-tempo, it does give a nice atmosphere to the whole tune.

Undoubtedly my favourite high-score mix has to be the mellow Ball of Wiz by Tusc (J.K. Jakobsen). The piano intro is superb, and the gentle rhythm section joins in after the first minute. The whole mix has a great vibe about it.


Andrew Fisher