Day 50 - shades of Gray

by PaulEMoz in , , , , , , , , , ,

I must admit that today's title is somewhat calculated in an attempt to bring in more traffic.  I do wonder, though, just what frustrated housewives will think if they accidentally click through to here.  It could have its advantages... they might despondently turn their computers over to their other halves, knowing that this might appeal more to them.

These shades of Gray, though, are musical.  Yes, I'm back on a music kick, and in the world of computer music in the Eighties there were two Grays that mattered... Fred and Matt.

Fred Gray was the most prolific of the two, but quantity didn't mean a sacrifice in quality.  Indeed, he wrote some very memorable tunes for some very memorable games.  Nodes of Yesod, Mission AD and Hysteria are just three that stick in the memory.  But for me, the game and music that I remember most prominently is Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

Where does it say "Press Fire To Start", eh?  Where?
In all my thirty-plus years of playing games, very few have struck me the way that Frankie Goes To Hollywood did.  It was just so different from anything else I'd ever seen or played.  In fact, I almost didn't play it... I thought it was broken and wouldn't load when I sat staring at what I thought was a loading screen; eventually, and for no particular reason, I pressed the fire button and the game started!

Once you began, things were abstract and unique right from the off, with your character standing in a mundane-looking street.  Even when you started wandering into the houses to explore, it all looked very run-of-the-mill.  But these houses hid a lot of secrets and surprises, and as you started digging in, it became evident that this was a game like no other.

Nice wallpaper.  No, really.
Helping the atmosphere to no end was Fred Gray's music, which featured stunning renditions of FGTH songs.  I was never a Frankie fan... screaming guitars were more my bag, baby.  But I've always loved instrumental music, and these tunes in this form added so much atmosphere to the game.  I never did complete it (I managed 97%), but I always really enjoyed playing it.  I'd love to get hold of Denton Designs to ask them about this and their other games, but they only ever seem to be credited as Denton Designs and as such are quite elusive!

Matt Gray may have less tunes to his name, but they're no less memorable.  His work was a feature of a number of System 3's games, and although Tusker and Vendetta are very well-regarded, I'm sure it's Last Ninja 2 that most people still tend to remember.  But for me, Matt Gray's best work came on another game... Driller.

I distinctly remember reading the reviews of Driller and thinking it looked amazing, but being worried that it would move like a slideshow.  My poor C64 usually struggled with wireframe vector graphics, never mind filled 3D.  But it sounded like such an intriguing game, I just had to play it.

That's an impressive sight. Not just "Cleared", but 100% achieved, too.
I was so pleased that I did.  It gripped me in a way that few other games had, and that was helped considerably by the stunning music.  It was tremendously atmospheric, and as you stood on the surface of the faraway moon with the sound of the wind whistling around at the start of the tune, you really did feel as though you were part of the game.  The slow-moving graphics were amazing for the time, and I convinced myself that if I were on that moon in a drilling rig, then I'd actually move that slowly anyway.

Again, I didn't complete Driller, but it was a game that really sucked me in as I endeavoured to find all of Mistral's secrets.  And honestly, I feel compelled to give it another try now.  I don't think I'd regret it.

So, two shades of Commodore Gray have filled today's post.  They'd be worthy additions to any music section this book might have, and you can consider them targets if you're taking notes.