Play It By Ear #1 – Dustforce

Hello all! Welcome to the first (and hopefully not last) installment of Play It By Ear, a bi-weekly weekly column where every two weeks week I discuss my thoughts on a different video game’s soundtrack.

You can see the list of upcoming games and their respective playlists here. I will try to focus on lesser-known games or games whose soundtracks I feel can be a bit overlooked, but some of the bigger games may sneak their way in.

Today’s Game: Dustforce

Release Date: January 17, 2012

Composer: Terence Lee (a.k.a. Lifeformed)

Other Works by Same Composer: Tunic OST (2022), Immerse (the soundtrack to the A Double Fine Adventure documentary) (2014)

Availability: Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube

Playlist Link – Note that the playlist includes two songs that were not included on the official album release but were released separately (Undiscovery and Sun Bleach)

Number of Songs: 18 (+ 2 extras)

Approximate Total Time: 55 minutes

Played the Game? No.

What Kind of Game Is This? Dustforce is a 2D platformer released on Windows, OS X, Linux, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360. You play as one of four janitors tasked with cleaning up a world covered in dust and filth. The game makes heavy use of double jumping and wall jumping, requiring sharp reflexes.

Overall Thoughts: The soundtrack to Dustforce, officially called ‘Fastfall’, is one of my favorite video game soundtracks ever – and yet I’ve never actually played the game. Instead, I stumbled across it while making my way through relaxing video game playlists on YouTube during my senior year of college. (Unfortunately, that specific channel has since been shut down.) I was immediately taken by it. I listened to it pretty much non-stop my final semester, to the point where I can claim that it is one of the most important things that helped me get through that stressful time. Its unique sound, a mix of electronic tones, reverb effects, and strings, creates an enchanting and beautifully peaceful atmosphere. Lee has listed chiptune, intelligent dance music (IDM), and SNES-era RPGs as his biggest inspirations for the work, and this can be clearly seen throughout the whole album. And even though most of the songs are similar in overall vibe, they are different enough in terms of melody and arrangement that they keep from blending together. In my opinion, it is remarkable what Lee achieved with this soundtrack. I could think of no better one to start this series off with than this.

Top Songs or Songs of Note:

Cider Time

This is the first song that I heard from the soundtrack, and the one that got me hooked. Until it was dethroned last year, it was for a long time the most listened-to song in my Apple Music library. I think that it is the simplicity of it that grabbed me. The main melody is straightforward and relatively sparse, creating an almost melancholic feel, while the persistent drumbeat in the background and the use of reverb give it a sense of momentum.

9-Bit Expedition

My second favorite from the soundtrack, this one has an adventurous feel that is infectious. Great use of chiptune that gives it almost a bouncy beat. On top of that, it has one of my favorite titles on the album – it’s a bit more than 8-bit, get it?

Elvish Piper Academy

Perhaps the most purely relaxing track, this is another favorite of mine. Between the effects that sound like rippling water and the almost flute-like synths that make up the main melody, listening to this makes me feel like I am wandering through a forest one peaceful morning.

The Magnetic Tree

This one feels a lot more enigmatic than the previous three discussed, and it retains the slight melancholic vibes of Cider Time as well. According to Lee this was the hardest song on the soundtrack to compose, but it all comes together very well in my view.


While many of the other songs on the album can feel a bit sparse at times (not in a bad way, mind you), this one does not. It feels like Lee was throwing a bunch of ideas at the wall (which is actually pretty much how he describes it) to see what sticks, and I love it for that. It really helps it to stand out among the rest.

Honorable Mentions: Fifty Fps Forest, Swimming While It’s Raining, Light Pollution, Sun Bleach, Undiscovery

Least Favorite Songs: The soundtrack is so strong generally that there aren’t any songs I actively dislike. If forced to choose my least favorites, though, I would have to go with A Safe Place to Sleep or Dream Salvage. They are relaxing, dreamy tracks, but they also have perhaps the least going on of any songs from the soundtrack.

Final Rating: I think I made it pretty clear in my overall impressions what my final rating would be – a definite A.

Bonus Prompts:

  • Do you agree or disagree with my assessment of the soundtrack?
  • Are there any tracks, that I mentioned or didn’t mention, that you would like to further discuss?
  • What game soundtracks have you been listening to recently? What’s been grabbing your attention?
  • Are there any game soundtracks that you would like me to cover in the future?

And there we have it! Thanks so much for reading and for listening to this soundtrack with me.

Up Next: Chameleon Twist 2