Play It By Ear #2 – Chameleon Twist 2

Hello all! Welcome back to Play It By Ear, a weekly column where every Friday I discuss my thoughts on a different video game’s soundtrack. (Last week I had initially mentioned that this would be a bi-weekly column, but after thinking it over I decided to move to a weekly schedule.)

You can see the list of upcoming games and their corresponding 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: Chameleon Twist 2

Release Date: December 25, 1998

Composer: Koichi Fujiwara

Other Works by Same Composer: Power Quest OST (1998)

Availability: YouTube

Playlist Link

Number of Songs: 23

Approximate Total Time: 46 minutes

Played the Game? Yes.

What Kind of Game Is This? Chameleon Twist 2 is a 3D platformer released exclusively for the Nintendo 64 as a sequel to the 1997 game Chameleon Twist. After a group of chameleons is sent into the sky by a magical white rabbit, they are transformed into anthropomorphic creatures that must collect carrots across various worlds. (Yes, the plot doesn’t make much sense.) The main gimmick is the use of the chameleons’ tongues, which can be controlled independently using the analog stick to gobble up enemies and stick to walls or various obstacles. It was an interesting concept, but it didn’t always work well in execution.

Top Songs or Songs of Note:

Title Theme

While unfortunately quite repetitive (the main melody seems to consist of largely the same eight notes on loop), this theme is very catchy and easy to get stuck in your head.

Sky Land

One of the main reasons I selected this game for this week’s column in the first place, this song (the theme of the first level) has such an upbeat, adventurous feel and is just a joy to listen to.

Carnival Land

This one – the second level theme – is almost as good as Sky Land in my estimation and really does a good job of capturing a groovy carnival atmosphere.

Ice Land

Perhaps the most atmospheric and dreamy track in the game, it is hard to listen to this without immediately picturing ice and snow.

Great Edo Land

Fitting for a level heavily based on Japanese culture, the use of traditional Japanese instruments and melodies works surprisingly well with the game’s overall musical style.

Toy Land Boss

One of only a few of the boss themes that stand out to me, this one actually makes good use of the soundtrack’s generally repetitive nature in order to come across as quite ominous.

Honorable Mentions: File Select, Sky Land Boss, Edo Land Boss, Toy Land, Ending Credits

Least Favorite Songs: I would probably have to go with Carnival Land Boss on this one, as it suffers from the twin cardinal sins of being both repetitive and kind of boring.

I’ll also mention the Pyramid Land theme. I’m not sure why, but it doesn’t really do much for me. It definitely fits the level, but it feels a bit too subdued compared to the other level themes.

Overall Thoughts: I chose this game for this week’s column for two reasons: nostalgia and its relative lack of popularity. I’m not going to argue that the game was some kind of overlooked masterpiece, because it wasn’t. It had some fun ideas, but it was short and suffered from poor controls at times. The main thing it had going for it, in my view, was the catchy soundtrack. Well into my college years, long after I had given the game away, I would find myself humming various themes from the game. Once you hear them, it can be hard to get them out of your head.

While re-listening to the soundtrack to prepare for this column, though, I will admit that I was slightly disappointed. Some of the songs are wonderful gems – the level themes like Sky Land and Carnival Land in particular – but many just felt short and more overly repetitive than I remembered. And I’m not the only one to think so – apparently several critics at the time complained about the repetitive nature of the soundtrack. Even so, it does have that synth-y 90s charm to it that I love. It’s definitely a step down compared to last week’s game, Dustforce, but the soundtrack still holds a special place in my heart. I’ll be interested to hear what you all think about it.

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.

Last Week: Dustforce

Next Week: Baten Kaitos