Fix & Foxi – Episode 1: Lupo Soundtrack, Manfred Linzner, 2000
One day historians will sit down and determine how many hundreds of licensed platformers were released for the Game Boy and the Game Boy Colour. Then again, we might never know the exact number – the market share of both platforms was so large that even local releases promised commercial success. Case in point: Fix & Foxi – Episode 1: Lupo (and no, there was no second episode, so maybe things didn’t turn out as planned). The game was based on an animated TV series, which in turn was an adaptation of a weekly German comics magazine first published in 1953. The magazine ran for decades and at the height of its success boasted a circulation of several hundred thousand per week. Of course, abroad the two anthropomorphic foxes and their friend Lupo weren’t particularly well-known, so this Game Boy Colour title remained an obscure Germany-only game.
While very few will remember Fix & Foxi – Episode 1: Lupo, it deserves a place in the annals of game music for its outstanding soundtrack. It was one of the earliest works by Manfred Linzner, who had graduated from the Amiga demo scene of the mid-1990s to scoring commercial products. After writing music for several Amiga games, Linzner began to focus on Game Boy Colour and later Game Boy Advance titles. His productivity in these early years of his career is astounding – for the years 2000-2002, Mobygames lists 36 music credits for Linzner! The highlights from this fertile period of his career are Iridion 3D and the Fix & Foxi – Episode 1: Lupo soundtrack.
The score marks Linzner as a master of chiptune music in the vein of several European composers of the late 1990s and early 2000s that pushed this format to its limits. With his background in the demo scene, Linzner was well-placed to exploit the Game Boy Colour’s sound capacities to the fullest. Take the use of the programmable wave channel on “Forest & Meadow”, where it plays three lines at the same time: a bass pulse of rapidly descending notes (Mega Man-style), a melodic ostinato and deeper bass notes. It’s an indication of how smartly Linzner uses the limited means at his disposal to create a lush, complex sound that can stand with the most luxuriously produced chiptune music of the era.
Thankfully, Linzner’s skills extend beyond creating an impressively detailed wall of sound. His melodic instincts are just as strong, evidenced right off the bat on “Title”. Backed by production techniques reminiscent of Alberto José González’s Game Boy scores, “Title” presents an 80s pop-inspired tune so catchy, proud and instantly hummable it brings to mind Chris Hülsbeck’s greatest achievements. Pacing itself through a breakdown into a more grandstanding B section while still overflowing with fun and euphoria, “Title” is pitch-perfect chiptune pop. Its wonderfully full-bodied production is bolstered by a punchy, elastic bass line that Linzner coaxes out of one of the square wave channels.
Other tracks on the Fix & Foxi – Episode 1: Lupo soundtrack deliver equally delightful melodies. First level track “Forest & Meadow” calms things down after “Title”’s rush of endorphins, with bouncier, heavier rhythms and melodies that are jolly rather than soaring – but still just as head-bopping. “Ship” is a bit simpler in its ingredients, with a melody that’s very much on the beat, something of a cross between a sea chantey and a children’s song. Here and on other tracks, Linzner uses a clever effect to give his melodies a richer sound. What might initially sound like one sustained note is actually a short note followed by a vibrato-like effect generated by playing notes just above or below the first note’s pitch.
Later compositions evince Linzner’s ability to also produce vividly atmospheric chiptune music, without ever giving up the lavishly arranged nature of his compositions. Parts of “Temple” feel positively eerie, with a spooky lead over creepy chromatic progressions in the harmonising sound channels below. A stuttering bassline only adds to the cue’s feeling of disorientation, as does the fiercely growling bass drone that suddenly appears in the programmable wave channel. And yet, one of the square wave channels mixes in a melody that doesn’t lose its animated, bubbly feel, balancing the almost haunting sounds around it and tying “Temple” into the soundtrack’s busy, kid-friendly template.
The Fix & Foxi – Episode 1: Lupo soundtrack’s most elaborate cue is “Fortress”, suitably capping off the score. Persistent noise channel rhythms push arpeggios that grow denser and denser, propelled by a rolling, heavy bass line. Melodies organically emerge from the strikingly thick textures – doubling rhythmic movement rather than delivering tunes, keeping the juggernaut’s forward momentum going. “Fortress” is filled to the brim with textures and rhythms that are exceptionally diverse, yet Linzner harnesses them into a focused, dramatic whole. Listen to the first lead melody, crystalline and almost painfully high-pitched, cutting through the flurry of notes in astonishing fashion. There’s no doubt that with this soundtrack, a major new talent had arrived on the game music scene.
- 01 - Title Linzner, Manfred 1:41
- 02 - Forest & Meadow Linzner, Manfred 2:14
- 03 - Ship Linzner, Manfred 2:25
- 04 - Temple Linzner, Manfred 2:51
- 05 - Fortress Linzner, Manfred 2:02