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Portal 2: Songs to Test By (Collectors Edition)


4.5
superb

Review

by Alex Beebe USER (126 Reviews)
November 7th, 2012 | 25 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Score music rarely has the huge amount of personality found here, and even when it does, it’s never been quite as fun as this.

Portal 2: Songs to Test By, Mike Morasky’s debut original soundtrack as head composer for Valve, hit the web last year in the form of very generous free download of its three volumes worth of content. The success, awards, and acclaim from critics and fans alike that met Portal 2 and its score signified the inevitable release of that very soundtrack in physical form, the bonus of choosing to buy the soundtrack as opposed to downloading it for free being, of course, fan merchandise along the lines of mugs and T-shirts, but most notably the inclusion of a bonus disc which contains the score of the first Portal game composed by original head Valve composer Kelly Bailey before his departure from the company.

Interestingly enough, the two separate scores end up contrasting each other in many regards. Both soundtracks thoroughly embody the games they are apart of, and much like the game, Morasky’s score for Portal 2 is sprawling to say the least at three volumes of material, while Bailey’s score for the original Portal on the other hand is very short at compact at only one disc, much like how the original Portal was considerably shorter than the average full-blown video game.

Portal 2‘s score precisely captures the fun and humorous essence of the video game through electronic music bursting with textures and sonics that perfectly convey the quirky charm of Portal 2's characters and the game’s world in general. If the titles of the songs are any indication, the soundtrack is not hesitant to reference its own inside-jokes to add its own quirk factor, but the music itself is strong enough to stand on its own while still being reminiscent of particular in-game moments, displaying a wide variety of tones that range funny to dark, and vast to confined.

Bailey’s score for the original Portal provides a distinct contrast to Portal 2‘s score in terms of mood especially. While the score for Portal 2 embraces and embodies the traits that the original Portal established the foundation for in a full-blown sequel that greatly expands upon its own universe, Portal’s soundtrack is much like the game in that it possesses the unknowing and uneasy vibes of the original that are quite the opposite of the bombastic and over-the-top thrills of its sequel. This is very subdued and calm music in an ominously unsettling way, with a sterile and bleak atmosphere where hauntingly lonely ambiance and its mysterious foreboding is scarcely interrupted by panicked and tense instances of violently climactic industrial music.

This mood is common throughout Bailey’s typical work, but Portal’s score is without a doubt his work at its darkest, and its ever-lingering sense claustrophobic sadness makes for an incredible contrast to Morasky’s zany Portal 2 score that pays homage to the retro feel of the playful cyberspace themes of classic 80‘s science fiction.

Morasky is without a doubt the star of the show here, producing an overly impressive soundtrack that goes above and beyond all expectations for a debut solo score as the head composer for the Valve corporation. As if there wasn’t enough content to begin with at three discs, the collectors edition of Portal 2: Songs to Test By is a rewarding purchase for fans, and still a ridiculously generous package that Valve has definitely made worth buying as opposed to downloading for free.



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user ratings (6)
Chart.
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Comments:Add a Comment 
breakingthefragile
November 7th 2012


2962 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm really glad a collectors edition of this score was released. I adored Portal 2 and its score last year, so I'm really happy this gave me a chance to review it as a new release this year. Hope you all like the review!

conradtao
Emeritus
November 7th 2012


2090 Comments


is that actually what chell officially looks like??? huh, interesting

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
November 7th 2012


4507 Comments


what awful cover art

NocteDominum
Contributing Reviewer
November 7th 2012


7122 Comments


Good review man, question. Take the game out of the equation; would you still give the same rating?

breakingthefragile
November 7th 2012


2962 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Of course, I always base my ratings mainly on how well the music stands on its own.

NocteDominum
Contributing Reviewer
November 7th 2012


7122 Comments


All good, it just like the game itself gave you a nostalgic to help base your opinion on.

breakingthefragile
November 7th 2012


2962 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Well, the fact that this score just embodies every unique trait of this game certainly factors into my rating, but I mainly base my rating first and foremost on how good the music itself sounds alone.

NocteDominum
Contributing Reviewer
November 7th 2012


7122 Comments


I guess that makes sense for a music review : ) good job

NocteDominum
Contributing Reviewer
November 7th 2012


7122 Comments


Good job souleater, is that your first vote? Welcome to sputniks voting system

NocteDominum
Contributing Reviewer
November 7th 2012


7122 Comments


Put a space between the eyes and mouth like this when your doing smileys : )

CaptainDooRight
November 7th 2012


30251 Comments


gd rev bro Pos'd

might hv to ck this hard

BaseballJames
November 7th 2012


376 Comments


Pos'd. Love this game.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
November 7th 2012


10362 Comments


Is there anything wrong with judging a music on its context? I understand where you're coming from, Alex. At the same time, though, I feel like there isn't wrong with considering how the music complements what it was meant for.

breakingthefragile
November 7th 2012


2962 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I agree. It's not wrong to critique the soundtrack on how well it goes with the movie or game it is meant for, and that's exactly what I did here in my review. I thought it was clear that I reviewed this score BOTH on how it fits the game itself, and how it stands on its on.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
November 7th 2012


10362 Comments


It sounded like you reviewed it solely on the music aspect, but I now see what you mean!

YoYoMancuso
November 7th 2012


11189 Comments


nice review Alex, pos'd

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
November 7th 2012


4453 Comments


Yeah this game was loads of fun. Rather stimulating intellectually. POS'd.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
November 7th 2012


10362 Comments


I got stuck on 5-6 puzzles for the longest time. I'm stubborn, so I tried to ignore help from the Internet... However, I had to eventually give in most times. Puzzle games are challenging if you don't play them very often.

SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
November 8th 2012


4453 Comments


Yeah, there was some crazy puzzles on the game. It's funny because I bought the orange box specifically for Half-Life, and one day I started playing Portal for fun. Then beating Portal became my obsession for months. I rarely play video games, but that one really got me.

breakingthefragile
November 8th 2012


2962 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Valve knows how to make 'em, that's for sure.



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