If you are on this forum, reading this post, there is a good chance that, like myself, you believe the old Rare games like DK Country, DK 64, and Banjo Kazooie were absolute masterpieces. For me the one thing that set these games apart from their platformer peers is the incredible atmosphere each one of these games created. Now don't get me wrong, gameplay is important too, but I've always felt that the true magic of these games was their ability to transport you beyond the mundane world you normally inhabit and allow you to experience an entirely new one. So what makes a game atmospheric, you might ask?
To be sure, the visuals are a major part of a game's atmosphere, but not the aspect I wish to discuss here. What I see as the other important factor in establishing atmosphere is the sound design. Specifically, I think an important, yet oft-overlooked aspect of a game's design is the ambient noise. It is a small detail, but I feel it can really go that extra mile (or that extra 1.6 kilometers for you non-American types who use a sane system of measurement) in transforming a soulless and empty video game level and making it feel full of life. And who understood this fact better than Mr. Kirkhope? Take a listen to any one of the tracks from Banjo Kazooie or Donkey Kong 64. Or, better yet, play through the games again and pay close attention to the ambient sounds incorporated into the soundtrack. Visit Jungle Japes and hear the birds chirping, monkeys screeching, and elephants trumpeting. Brave a trip to Creepy Castle to listen to the moans emanating from the dungeon, and feel a chill travel up your spine as shrill laughter echoes through the empty ballroom. Voyage to Rusty Bucket Bay and listen to the horns and whistles of the boats sounding off while seagulls caw in the distance. Finally, make your way over to Click Clock Woods and soak in the sun while a veritable choir of birds, bees, and frogs sing along to the melody.
Actually, Mr. Kirkhope wasn't even the first Rare composer to incorporate ambient noise into his soundtracks. The equally brilliant David Wise was also a master at weaving environmental noises into his tunes. Though the DKC games don't incorporate quite as much DK 64 or Banjo might have, I can think of plenty of examples, such as Jungle Hijinx, Hot Head Bop, Bayou Boogie, and Jib Jig.
Am I crazy for having typed out this long rant about ambient noise? Probably. But I will let you guys be the judge of that. Does anybody agree with me here when I say that ambient noise really adds a lot to the experience? Does anybody strongly disagree? Furthermore, what role do you believe, or hope, ambient noise will play in Yooka Laylee? Thus far none of the music tracks we have heard have incorporated any ambient sounds, but they were labelled as works in progress, so perhaps some will be added in later. What are some of your favorite (or least favorite) uses of ambient noise in video games? I would love to hear your thoughts!