Prescription for Sleep: Shovel Knight takes the iconic soundtrack from the most successful action platformer in the last decade and gives it a jazzy makeover, transforming it into a great album to fall asleep or chill out to.
Shovel Knight is a game that will forever bring me fond memories. I started playing the game way back when on my Nintendo 3DS before the idea was even announced that there would be a four-part buffet of the goodness that the Shovel Knight games provide. Each new game in the series added something new, something unique, and something unmistakenly fun. Throughout the entire gamut of the Treasure Trove’s campaign quadrilogy, however, there was always the pixel-perfect platforming, the memorable characters, the epic boss fights and of course, the soundtrack that, to me, showcases how smart a musician Jake Kaufman really is.
Each track in each game represented a character or area so perfectly, that it is hard to detach the two. Jake’s mastery of creating fun, bopping beats that add emphasis to the action or emotion to the drama of the boss fight or story arch, really showcases a perfection of setting the mood, and in the restrictive genre of Chiptune, no less. These great tunes easily bring to mind the epicness of the soundtracks from the Mega Man series back in the eighties and nineties, and while they don’t use actual physical instruments to represent the notes, the intricacies of Jake’s arrangements make it hard to tell the difference. He actually restricted himself to the Famicom’s music limitations to create each track, so that certainly shows how much dedication he put into each song.
The album Prescription for Sleep: Shovel Knight — albeit, somewhat ironically — offers real instrument versions of the original tracks, with a lot of flourish and personality. Each track has a melody that’s recognizable from the source material, but otherwise gets carried away, almost like a dream. Within the expansive twenty track album, there’s a lot to love here, with themes spanning from all the Shovel Knight games. Check out a handful of the album’s tracks below to truly grasp what this amazing tribute has to offer:
Steel Thy Shovel
This track expands the profile selection screen to a haunting tale of knights and shovelry, giving off a sense of an epic adventure about to begin, or at least continue. The playful sax notes here weave through the arrangement like a light rain drizzling over a somber, empty castle.
Strike the Earth!
While the original is one of the most memorable songs from all of Shovel Knight’s adventures, this version provides a moment to reflect, away from the action and the danger. A gorgeous but sad song that brings internal reflection. To dig or not to dig?
The Requiem for Shield Knight
With a campfire for warmth and a blanket of stars above his head, Shovel Knight nods off and dreams of his dear friend Shield Knight. More than a damsel in distress, Shield Knight offers a role that transcends the typical rescue role and becomes something more entirely. This rendition showcases a depth of emotion and gives a starlit sense of beauty with the soft piano melody and drawn out saxophone notes which eventually crescendo to a point with rampant energy and volume, dancing around the notes as only jazz can.
La Danse Macabre
The Lich Yard has spirit — many in fact. This haunted graveyard, filled with tombs, specters, and skeletons, provides a home for the lost and abandoned. This sexy saxxy tune will move your bones and inspire you to dance in the moonlight like no body’s watching.
A place to plan and celebrate your small victories, King Knight’s airship in King of Cards, the Glidewing, is a base like no other. Flying effortlessly over the dangerous lands below, Doe — a deer, but not a female deer — pilots the Glidewing to the next destination. When it’s time, King Knight jumps off the bow, down to another adventure. This track provides the uplifting theme with a pie-in-the-sky version, with soaring piano notes and an energetic sax delivers note after note with silky smooth grace.
Jazz might not be for everyone, but Prescription for Sleep should make it easier to bridge the gap between chiptunes and itself. Both have eccentric and playful expansions of main themes, and while chiptunes certainly have particular restrictions, Jazz’s use of every note being nearly a requirement provides a similar burden as well. GENTLE LOVE gives us a wide gamut of tracks paying tribute to one of the strongest game soundtracks ever and provides fresh, new ideas launching off of the main concept but ending up somewhere else entirely. The piano and saxophone pair brilliantly captures both a swell of emotions and energy into a vortex of spontaneity that can soothe just as well as it surprises. This is certainly an album you don’t want to miss, and I can say with utmost certainty that you’re gonna dig it.