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Soundtrack review: Yoku’s island express (Jesse Harlin – 2018)

Game scores

Soundtrack review: Yoku’s island express (Jesse Harlin – 2018)



Yoku has arrived on Mokumana and he’s ready for the easy life, soaking up the sun and delivering parcels on a tropical paradise! However, an ancient Island deity is trapped in a restless sleep – and it’s all down to Yoku to traverse the island using a unique blend of pinball mechanics, platforming and open world exploration, in an amazing adventure to help those in need! Flip and bump our pint-sized protagonist around the stunning hand-painted island on your quest to rebuild the post-office, and wake an old god from its deep slumber. Jesse Harlin wrote the score.

A charming and wacky little game like this needed a score to match and it’s obvious from the opening cue “Yoku Taidua And The Village” that I’m in for a fun listening experience: there are voices, a tender flute, island bongos and even a harmonica I think for a groovy, light and fun sound that instantly puts me in a good mood. There’s whistling there’s finger snapping and this is just the first cue. The surprises just keep on coming, with electronic sounds, bebop, chiptune music, electric guitar, other voices lazily singing in the background. I haven’t played this game but the music makes me think of a wonderfully quirky adventure in which the music itself is a character that shares the oddities of the environment. Usually when the music is light and sometimes silly I have a hard time connecting with it but there’s a special charm about “Yoku’s island express” that gets to me. As soon as a cue ends I can’t wait to hear what weirdness the next one has in store and I imagine the exploration of the game world is equally exciting. I actually feel like a gamer going through different levels and not getting enough. There’s even a Celtic motif, my soft spot, hidden in “Lost in the frost pines”.

This right here is proof that if producers, directors, whatever give composers a free hand in writing the music, fun things can happen. Jesse Harlin just went with it and created a musical atmosphere that matches that intended by the game. Never a dull moment and no matter what cue you choose from this score it will put a smile on your face.

Cue rating: 61 / 100

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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