Gaming Frequencies: Past Cure

Mar 13, 2018 By Austin Trunick
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In the opening chapter of Past Cure, our hero awakes in what appears to be a crumbling, abandoned hospital – this is a dream, we quickly learn, and he is conscious of that. There’s a menacing chord, and lights appear behind a door. It opens, and a horrifying, faceless, humanoid being enters the room, walking directly at you with a determined gait. If you can’t draw your weapon fast enough, it will kill you – even in your dream.

Succeed, and you’ll wake up again, this time in a posh beach house. Everything seems relatively safe until those creatures appear again: docile now, but no less disturbing. Your character, Ian, needs to dose himself with pills to keep sane, and to keep these things out of his reality. Once a highly-trained soldier, Ian was the unwilling subject of a series of experiments that left him with psychic abilities, but also a crumbling mind. In Past Cure, you’re trying to find answers about your deteriorating condition, even if it means shooting your way through a heavily-armed criminal organization.

Past Cure is a game that can’t be cornered into one genre. A blend of action, stealth, and puzzler, you’ll need to move between those styles of gameplay on the fly, sometimes solving puzzles while dodging enemies. It’s a vividly cinematic experience, with a story, score, and camera angles that make it feel like an action-oriented psychological thriller. The shifting gameplay styles keep each chapter feeling fresh, but it’s Ian’s drive to uncover his past that makes Past Cure so compelling. 

Below, Nick Mallinder of indie developer Phantom8 answered our questions about crafting the sound and visuals of Past Cure’s dual worlds, and Charlotte Jacobs of Belgium-based electronic group Seiren describes the process of writing the game’s cinematic theme song. The game is available now on Steam, PS4, and Xbox One.

Austin Trunick [Under the Radar]: The action in Past Cure takes place in two realities: the seedy, criminal underbelly of the real world, and in the surreal landscapes of Ian's dreams. Soundwise, how did you differentiate the two settings?

Nick Mallinder, Animation Artist, Phantom8: The two settings had to be differentiated for both artistic and gameplay reasons. The dreamscapes were more puzzle based gameplay with horror elements and the real world focused on stealth and combat.

For the surreal settings we put more work into the 2D ambience that is constantly present. As the setting was less realistic it was a great opportunity to experiment with creating new sounds. We could stretch, reverse and apply pretty much any effect we wanted to sounds as long as it made something creepy or mysterious. One of the most effective tools was to create cues which fade out as you get closer to them. This was a great way of disorienting the player by constantly chasing sounds without ever being sure where they’re coming from.

The real world sounds were more based on realistic 3D sounds within the environment. As the real world levels are a mix of stealth and action, the base track had to be more of a tense drone to match the feeling of stealth. Whenever stealth is broken we blend in more dramatic, rhythmic music for combat.

Musically, the game's soundtrack is very present and memorable, from the haunting piano passages to the more ominous, ambient tracks. From where did you draw inspiration for the game's score?

NM: The main aim for the music was to emphasise the core themes of the game. Dreams, nightmares and horror. The abstract sections obviously utilised classic horror and mystery sounds, but the overall music needed to convey and overall dark psychological tone. The main character has lost his memory and his mental state is in decline. In contrast, the warm piano theme was to inject a feeling of nostalgia and warmth for a certain character he thinks he’s shared a past with but can't recall.

Past Cure has a very cinematic feel to it. Are there any films that you feel influenced the game?

NM: The art style took a lot of inspiration from films like Fight Club and John Wick, but the overall visual and audio style of Inception played the biggest influence from cinema for the team.

The game's theme song was composed by Belgian electronic artists Seiren. Can you tell me how that collaboration came together?

NM: The singer from the band is the sister of our gameplay programmer. He introduced her to the story and the concept during pre-production and it took off from there.

Seiren, tell me about your experience working on Past Cure. What guidelines were you given for the song, and what inspiration did you take from the game?

Charlotte Jacobs, vocalist, Seiren: Phantom8 studio had some example songs in which direction they heard the sound and atmosphere going of their own track. It had a pretty minimalistic atmosphere, but i noticed that it was a real "song" song. A song structure with verses and a chorus.

For our own Seiren track I tried to keep the verses small, especially melodically, because I think it's more storytelling, and I really wanted the lyrics to be the most important. The chorus has more of an epic vibe that, in my opinion, lots of game soundtracks have. We tried to make it more heroic in sound and let it built up. The combination of the words and melody are moving more and the song opens up.

When I read the script, I figured the main idea was going to be about a disease, a dream, an underworld because the main character is haunted by dreams and mixes up his reality. When I researched about the word-use "Past Cure", I found a sonnet by Shakespeare with the line "Past cure, past care", Sonnet 147. In this sonnet, Shakespeare refers to love as an incurable disease. You're in love and it feels great but it kills you at the same time. I wrote down some sentences about being possessed by love, about the experience of love in an unhealthy way.

During my brainstorm I came to a point that the storyteller of the song, the I figure, is the disease itself.

The song impersonates the disease that is talking to the diseased and is taking over.

The song is not really clear about the sort of illness. Is it love, is it an incurable fever, or whatever kind of illness it is, is up to the listener and their interpretation.

Beyond Past Cure, are you gamers? What are your favorite video games, or video game soundtracks?

CJ: Part from my brother being a huge video games fan and having me try out all sorts of games, I don't really have experience in gaming. I used to play Tekken 3 on PlayStation, because that was the only game I could kind of win at. Pushing all the buttons at once. I was sometimes intrigued by female fronted games, strong women who fight for justice. I remember me playing Tomb Raider on a very old windows computer.

Those soundtracks weren't my favorite songs, though.

I listened to some songs and soundtracks in preparation to write this one for Past Cure, a lot of them are very filmic and heroic. I liked Halo - Combat Evolved because it had a lot of choir work, and some parts are only voices. With Seiren we have worked a lot with the sound of voice. Our first album De mens en het Water (The Men and the Water) consists out of 4 songs and all the sounds are made by real recorded voices.

Fallout 3 also caught my attention, because it has a lot of ‘40s swing and big band songs in the soundtrack.

I also like Portal 2, because its all super electronica based and has an interesting vintage sound to it.

(phantom8.studio)

(www.facebook.com/seirenband)



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chelsieanayas
March 16th 2018
12:14am

The first adventure of fireboy and watergirl in the forest temple. Have fun and Good luck!.
fireboy and watergirl

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March 26th 2018
11:46pm

Thank you for sharing the information! The idea of changing battery sounds better than waiting for the battery to recharging.

Patinetes El├ęctricos
April 5th 2018
8:43am

good audio track ... I like it a lot, I use it as a ring on my cell phone; I sometimes listen to her when traveling on my scooters around my city.

College Freshman Checklist
April 20th 2018
12:50am

The Game was not bad. The Audio Track was good and I liked the story telling too. Not a Hard Core Gamer but, Liked It!