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Obscure Puzzler Detonator Has The Most Gorgeous, Melancholy Soundtrack

Image: KAZe / Mercari / Kochikochi / Kotaku
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Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s new, daily hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-ass sounds they make. Today’s pick comes out of left field: an obscure PlayStation 2 puzzler that randomly happens to have an achingly gorgeous soundtrack.

At the dawn of this year I was hip-deep in obscure corners of the PlayStation 2’s massive library, searching for unknown gems that had previously escaped my notice. One intriguing find was a March 2002 Japanese puzzle game called BuileBaku. It’s by pinball experts KAZe, and only got localized for Europe as a budget release called Detonator. But even that got delayed into 2004, because a puzzler about detonating buildings felt like a sensitive subject for a while.

This very nice review capably explains how it plays, and it sounds low-key interesting. I really like logic puzzlers (Hexcells is my all-time fave) and find great ones surprisingly scarce. Here’s Detonator in action:

KAZe / 【実況】LedjamOT103 (YouTube)

You’ll notice its aesthetic is very… chilly. Dismal. Lonely. You’re dynamiting buildings in a city that looks completely abandoned, possibly post-apocalyptic. And the music? The music matches perfectly.

The soundtrack does not appear to be on YouTube, but Japanese video site Niconico came through in the clutch.

Let’s listen:

It’s… lovely. Over these 23 minutes you’ll hear emotional, downbeat synths, sad piano, string glissandos... an air of decay and loss. Later songs scrape and grind a bit, dripping sounds, maybe geiger counters, distorted radio voices. The sound of wind. Louder percussion. Dissonance and overdriven synth. And finally it resolves like it began, with piano and slightly more hopeful synths.

It could go just as well with something like Metro 2033 or Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter. But nope, it’s a rather sedate puzzler, albeit one wrapped in unexpected aesthetic trappings.

What a great little discovery. Unfortunately I can’t find a peep about who composed Detonator—I’ll be sure to check for credits when I finally play it—nor has it gotten an official soundtrack release. So, we must content ourselves with the game itself and whatever fan rips one might find in this day and age. But I’m glad we can listen, because it’s well worth hearing.

That’s it for today’s Morning Music. Has anyone encountered Detonator before? Do you like its music, now that you have? (Instant fave, here.) Let’s chat. See you next time!