Play It By Ear #5 – Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!!

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.

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: Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why’d You Steal Our Garbage?!!

Suggested By: CedricTheOwl

Release Date: November 20, 2012

Platform: Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS

Developer: WayForward Technologies

Composer: Jake Kaufman

Other Works by Same Composer: Shovel Knight series OST, Shantae series OST, Mighty series OST, Ducktales: Remastered OST (2013), Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know! OST (with Ian Stocker) (2013)

Availability: YouTube

Playlist Link

Number of Songs: 34

Approximate Total Time: 1 hour 28 minutes

Played the Game? No.

What Kind of Game Is This? Based on Cartoon Network’s juggernaut series Adventure Time, the game follows series protagonists Finn the Human and Jake the Dog as they attempt to stop the villainous (and also quite pathetic) Ice King, who has been stealing their trash in order to create a Garbage Princess to be his wife. No, it doesn’t make much sense out of context, but it definitely sounds like it could be the plot of an episode of the show. Gameplay-wise Hey Ice King! takes heavy inspiration from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Finn and Jake travel the overworld in a top-down style but as soon as they enter a dungeon or get into a battle the action switches to side-scrolling.

Top Songs or Songs of Note (in Track Order):

Title Screen

A fantastic introduction to the overall soundtrack, this starts as a cover of the show’s theme song before jumping into a catchy tune summarizing the premise of the game. It is very easy to get this one stuck in your head.

It’s So Cold

The vocals – both the beatboxing and the autotuned lyrics – really elevate this and give it a hypnotic feel.

Princess Bubblegum

This is just such a bouncy, cheerful track, it really feels like it wouldn’t be out of place in an old Kirby game.

Party in the Clouds

This is by far my favorite song on the soundtrack (which is saying a lot). You can really feel Kaufman going all out on this. It’s no wonder it made it all the way to the semi-finals in its respective Best Video Game Song Tournament here at the Avocado.

Ice Kingdom Overworld

The bass gives this a surprisingly ominous atmosphere, very befitting a final level.

Boss: Ice King

A chiprock cover of the game’s main theme – what more could you ask for?

A Hero is Made

Kind of an unusual theme for a final boss fight, but it really works for me due to its triumphant sound and silly lyrics.

Honorable Mentions: Chillin’ With My Bro, Grassland Overworld, Grassland Action, Candy Kingdom Overworld, Candy Kingdom Action, Boss Theme, Chores and Other Scary Stuff, FEAST! FIGHT! BE MANLY!, Mount Cragdor, Red Rock Pass Action, Who’s In Charge Here?, Ice Kingdom Action, Finale: Refusing to Refuse

Least Favorite Songs: I’m thinking I’m probably going to drop this category as a permanent part of these columns. For most of the games so far it has boiled down to ‘this one is slightly less exciting than the rest’, so I will likely only include this when there is a song I actually dislike.

Overall Thoughts: If you have seen some of my other posts on this site, you might already know that I have long considered Adventure Time to be my favorite television series of all time. One (of many) of the things I love about the show is its use of music. On the one hand, there is the background music composed by the duo of Tim Kiefer (aka Staypuft) and Casey James Basichis. The soundtrack regularly incorporated elements of chiptune and electronic music with other instruments to produce a distinct, quirky, and often atmospheric style that contributed so much to the show’s identity (for examples, see this, this, this, this, and this). And on the other hand are the vocal tracks, songs sung by the characters in the show (or occasionally by an outside narrator) that – major spoiler alert for the following links – range from silly to serious and everywhere in between. Many of these songs became iconic and took on a life of their own, and the show’s penchant for having its characters sing further helped it develop its identity.

How well does this game’s soundtrack live up to that of its source material? Almost perfectly, I’d say. While not all of the tracks would sound fully at home on the show, the variety on display fits Adventure Time – and Jake Kaufman – to a T. And it’s not just the liberal inclusion of chiptune either. Kaufman makes use of vocals in a number of interesting ways throughout the soundtrack, from the autotune of ‘It’s So Cold’ to the moans and whispers of ‘Chores and Other Scary Stuff’ and the beatboxing of ‘FEAST! FIGHT! BE MANLY!’ It lends the music such a unique and eclectic style that makes it just fun to listen to, even if you have never seen the show. Really, there was no need for the soundtrack to a licensed game to go this hard, but that seems to be Jake Kaufman’s M.O. and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m very glad I gave this a listen.

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: Lila’s Sky Ark

Next Week: The Mummy Demastered