That Dragon, Cancer Soundtrack Review: This is a review of the video game score That Dragon, Cancer by Jon Hillman.
At a glance:
Geek Score: 88
Total Minutes Of Excellence: 17.7
Album Excellence: 47.8%
That Dragon, Cancer is a video game created by Ryan and Amy Green, Josh Larson, and a small team under the name Numinous Games. The autobiographical game is based on the Greens’ experience of raising their son Joel, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer at twelve months old, and though only given a short time to live, continued to survive for four more years before eventually succumbing to the cancer in March 2014. The game is designed to have the player experience the low and high moments of this period in the style of a point-and-click adventure game, using the medium’s interactivity and immersion to relate the tale in ways that a film cannot. The game initially was developed to relate Ryan and Amy’s personal experience with Joel when they were uncertain of his health, but following his death, they reworked much of the game to memorialise and personalise their time and interactions with Joel for the player. Alongside the game, a documentary Thank You for Playing, documenting both the last few years of Joel’s life and the development of the game, has been filmed to be aired in 2016. The score is composed by Jon Hillman.
Well this is heavy stuff, really heavy stuff and I haven’t even played the game yet or heard a note of the music. How would you even score this? Well I’m curious. The score opens with ‘Spring Forth’, a very upbeat start to the score with a little bit of that magical fantasy sound to it. Not so much a theme, but such a great little opening track, fitting the cue name as well. ‘Feeding The Ducks’ takes a much calmer approach and goes straight for the emotional core. Know the story makes the music really hard to listen to, specially this kind of music which even without knowing anything would touch me emotionally. With the context added, it adds weight to the music, a lot of weight. That might be just me, but it’s a personal experience and it weighs on me. It’s beautiful though.
Hillman does a great job creating both happiness and sadness in a story no doubt filled with both. The music is reliant on the listener knowing the story or playing the story to gain full effect, but even if you jus picked up the soundtrack today knowing nothing about it and just started playing you would get a very enjoyable listening experience and you could create your own story to this music very easily. It’s impossible though isn’t it? You can’t unread the story and so the music becomes so heavy. It’s a beautiful score though, emotional, and hard to get through in one piece. Give it a try if you can handle it.
1. Spring Forth
2. Feeding The Ducks
4. Joel, Our Joy
7. On Hospital Time
9. Awake, Oh Awake My Joel
10. I’m Sorry Guys, It’s Not Good