Checking the Score: else Heart.break()

Checking the Score is a feature about video game music, composers, musicians and tools of the trade.

Although much video game music is imitative of the symphonic sounds and textures common to film and other visual media, there are a lot of game scores that are reflective of, or whose composers come from, the world of pop, rock or electronica. Some scores, like that for the recent Xenoblade Chronicles Xare eclectic mashups of many different genres and styles. While that diversity of style can work, in the case of Chronicles X it can be distracting and confusing. While the score of else { Heart.break() } is wide ranging, its basic tonal palette is rooted in a couple of genres.

El Huervo is the professional name for Swedish composer and graphic designer Niklas Åkerblad, who has contributed both art and written music for a number of projects, including Hotline Miami 1 and 2, both of which were widely praised for their musical scores. The score for else Heart.break()  features 56 tracks by El Huervo, Hello World, Sasac, Ratvader, Triobelisk, Philip E. Morris, Åke, Eli Hedman, and Tor Bruce, though the majority are by Åkerblad. These are not short cues, either, but fully developed 3-6 minute long songs.


else Heart.break() is an artistically unique, highly stylized point-and-click adventure game that takes place in an urban environment. It is a nearly directionless game that nevertheless has a story (once you discover it) and a fascinating hacking/programming component that is actually the heart and point of the experience. A stellar example of “emergent gameplay,” else Heart.break() suggests a DNA-level legacy of classic JRPGs without any overt reference to them.  

El Huervo’s score is a vast, hours-long collection of catchy electronica, synth pop, and dubstep that fits perfectly the William Gibson-esque tone of the game. The soundtrack eschews the meandering, noodling, ambient style of some electronica in favor of strong beats, clarity of texture, and a more traditionally pop approach to harmony and song structure. Chord progressions — even very simple ones — are not something one usually associates with electronica.

The else { Heart.break() } soundtrack is available on the indie label swedish columbia and on bandcamp.