It’s just the beginning, but 2023 already seems to have a breakout indie hit: Pizza Tower (opens in a new tab)a breakneck platformer that combines the best elements of Wario Land and 2D Sonic with a graphic style reminiscent of a Nickelodeon cartoon from an alternate timeline from the 90s. It also sounds incredible (opens in a new tab)like a 2D platformer soundtrack, it has no right to go so hard, but Ronan “Mr. Sauceman” de Castel and ClascyJitto (opens in a new tab) (also credited as Frostix) made it happen.
Take the opening track, Time For A Smackdown (opens in a new tab) – it starts off funky and discreet and then just goes into that guitar line that I couldn’t get out of my head for the last few weeks. Ditto for It’s Pizza Time! (opens in a new tab)theme of end-of-level escape sprints that turn into crazy jams as the clock ticks.
The real roaring hours last at The Death That I Deservioli (opens in a new tab)the escape theme in the second round, which I was never good at or brave enough to try, and guest composer PostElvis (opens in a new tab)‘ Pizza Deluxe main menu theme (opens in a new tab) is a nice, cool reunion (features what I’m pretty sure are audio samples of Wario’s scream). For the ultimate handpicked sample of the OST, Celsius Troubles (opens in a new tab) this is probably my favorite ClascyJitto contribution, excellent ice level music with a real danceable twist in the middle. This is the music I can lift weights to, the highest honor I can give.
Composer for the first time, the sound of all time
I met with de Castel, one of the game’s two main composers, to find out what it takes to create such a collection of 73 tracks, and I was surprised to learn that this is his first real published work as a musician. De Castel had enjoyed playing the piano for years, but had never taken formal lessons, and described his first forays into digital composition as “basically a hobby that I took up quite late in life.”
“It was terrible at first, as it was for everyone, but I created hundreds of pieces of music for personal projects that never saw the light of day,” de Castel told me, describing a situation familiar to many artists and writers. “It’s hard to put something out there, if you’re a little ashamed of what you’re doing, it sounds so bad!”
It’s not very common for a composer to persuade a game developer to cooperate, it usually works the other way around. “I was totally blown away by the clips I saw on Twitter, I just thought ‘Wow, that looks amazing,'” de Castel told me about his first contact with Pizza Tower. “And that was at a time when I was just starting out and taking music seriously.”
De Castel scoffed at some sort of demo/introductory track to send to Pizza Tower lead developer McPig, not expecting much from it. Whatever condition it was in, this track was a very early version of the previously mentioned dinger, It’s Pizza Time!, and secured de Castel as one of the game’s main composers.
“It was the first song I made for a game,” de Castel explains in It’s Pizza Time! “It was actually a track I emailed to McPig. You know, “Here’s the song, if you like it, great! I wonder, “What sold it?” Because the song itself sounded just awful back then, before I made some improvements to it.”
“I received a return email and was just completely shocked. McPig said something like, “Yeah, I love music, we’re taking you in.” I was just completely surprised by it!”
De Castel’s collaborators, ClascyJitto co-composer and main menu theme creator PostElvis, similarly descended from early Pizza Tower fans. While I’m more of a Celsius Troubles dude, de Castel singles out ClascyJitto Wudpecker as his co-worker’s favorite.
In terms of video game music, de Castel cites some inspirations along the line of Pizza Tower gameplay: the Wario Land series, especially the fourth Game Boy Advance game, and Sonic CD, which, like Pizza Tower, is a game you listen to and wonder, why they made the 2D platformer sound so good (opens in a new tab). Outside of gaming, de Castel points more broadly to funk, house and electronic music as what he wanted to emulate in the Pizza Tower OST, pointing to artists such as Chick Corea (opens in a new tab)Daft Punk, Mr. Oizo (opens in a new tab)and Justice (opens in a new tab). “It was the benchmark for all the music in the game. It’s just very funky stuff.”
The future of pizza
“This is brand new territory for us and we’re not ready for it yet,” de Castel told me about the game’s newfound popularity. “His success was overwhelming in many ways. But it’s also amazing because we listened to a lot of covers, remixes and mashups.”
“Everyone who is playing this game and streaming it is just great to watch. Something you’ve been working on for almost five years has finally been shown, it just fills us with pride.”
Right now, the Tour de Pizza is basking in success, but de Castel is also working on a personal project: Dust Riser (opens in a new tab)AND rendered core An RPG that promises a surreal aesthetic and more of de Castel’s unique music. At the moment, the project is quiet, but the composer has indicated that we can expect more about Dust Riser in 2023. ClascyJitto, on the other hand, seems to have several projects up his sleeve, including a new album HI-SPEED EXPLOSION DEVICE [GOLD] (opens in a new tab) falls on May 8.