Saturday, January 31, 2009

yakety sax is the best game music in the world

god bless you boots randolphOh Yakety Sax, better known as the Benny Hill theme, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Okay, I’m not really going to count the ways. I don’t want to be here that long, and neither do you. Suffice it to say that salt is to food as Yakety Sax is to everything in the entire world – you technically don’t need it and too much of it will kill you, but damned if it doesn’t make everything just a little bit better.

This naturally applies to video games as well.

It all started with the well-below average Jurassic Park: Trespasser demo. I was told by a friend, either Gene or Rob, about its many faults, and determined to see them for myself I located and downloaded it. Playing it was hilarious – everything moves like it is filled with helium and your character’s arm is completely bone-free, something that gets in the way when you’re trying to do simple tasks like wielding a weapon or progressing forward in the game. The demo was made tolerable by an unholy union, something God never intended – in order to accentuate the game’s already ridiculous tendencies, I put on Yakety Sax. Instant classic, and if you can still find the Trespasser demo it’s well worth the effort.

Fast forward to a few years later. There were about five days between when I bought my Xbox 360 and when the hard drive arrived in the mail. Having just blown all my money and without the storage space for downloadable games, I was forced to contemplate the lukewarm pack-in titles. One, Shitty Sega Tennis, provided nothing by way of thrills, and my general lack of affection for the Sonic series (I can’t even play the “good” ones) eliminated the nostalgia factor. Enter Pac Man Championship Edition, the best of the games on the Xbox Live Arcade disc included with all Arcade consoles. I loved the game but its droning techno music did nothing for me, so I connected my iPod and set it to shuffle. After a few songs, what should come up but dear old Yakety Sax? It was a perfect fit, a match made in heaven – anyone with a pulse can tell you that Pac Man is heavy on chasing, and maybe one in five British people can probably tell you that The Benny Hill Show is as well. Zipping around corners, eluding ghosts and turning the tables with power pellets all get a new lease on life when played to the sweet sounds of that happy sax.

I decided to see how deep the rabbit hole went. Upon my receipt of the hard drive and some Christmas money, I found Beautiful Katamari buried amidst mountains of Wii games in the bargain bin of a local establishment. Katamari’s crazy vibe lends itself well to Yakety Sax, and the fact that Beautiful Katamari’s soundtrack couldn’t hold a candle to the first two games’ only drove me into the arms of the song that much faster.

Next up, Castle Crashers, another game whose frantic nature fit Yakety Sax like a glove. Especially in the many, many unsolicited deathmatches I played with friends who apparently thought it was hilarious to wrest control from the leader of our party and herd us into the battle arena over. And over. Again. Still, I had my fix, and it felt fantastic.

I stopped eating and sleeping around the same time game characters started chasing each other around in my mind’s eye. Fevered and restless, I spent all of my time searching for my next big score. Not all games worked with Yakety Sax like I wanted them to. Mega Man’s 8 bit sound effects got in the way, and I didn’t want to turn the music off anyway. Banjo Kazooie was too slow for it. Relief came from an unlikely source, just after I developed my third ulcer. Braid, quiet, quirky, introspective little Braid, so classy and thoughtful when played as delivered, becomes a veritable orgy of madness on Yakety Sax’s watch. Using the time-bending mechanics in any capacity was now simply goofy instead of awe-inspiring, and that yakety sax just kept on blaring, as if mocking the game’s sudden loss of dignity. I grinned a toothless grin, my teeth having fallen out in the shower days before. I again felt the heady rush of adrenaline and endorphins as I played – this, I thought, must be how a heroin addict feels when he hears Yakety Sax.

By the time I was being rushed by hordes of undead in the Re5ident Evil demo, once again set to Yakety Sax, I had come to resemble many of the game’s zombies. Gangrenous and crazed, Yakety Sax occupied my every waking moment, and Benny Hill’s grinning moon-gob haunted my fleeting dreams. As I lay here dying and, um, writing a blog post, I think back fondly to my times with Boots Randolph’s magnum opus. My obsession with the song lost me my job, my girlfriend, my apartment, and my skin is coming off in big chunks, but I still love Yakety Sax and it still loves me.

Life well spent.