April 18, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Behind The Meme-tastic Music of ‘Nyan Cat Adventure’ (Updated)

We really enjoyed the music game app Techno Kitten Adventure and its dizzying psychedelic world. The same developer, 21stStreet Games, ups the ante with Nyan Cat Adventure, continuing the developers’ visual antics in the spirit of Nyan Cat, a meme that began as a viral video and now has over 70 million views.

21st Street Games is about to give rabid Nyan Cat fans even more of what they love, with the release of the Nyan Cat Adventure music soundtrack in iTunes, which has now been approved by Apple (updated). Now, fans everywhere will be able to snap up the music from the game, adding further to Nyan Cat’s bizarre legacy.

From a gaming perspective, Nyan Cat Adventure ($1) maintains the insanity of Techno Kitten Adventure and increases the difficulty. You can choose from 10 characters and an array of modes in this single-button arcade game. Your goal is travel as far as you can by jumping, flying, and shooting your cat from toasters. Items you can pick up along the way either aid or impede your journey.

But the distinguishing feature of the Nyan Cat universe has always been the music. Meet Kevin Salchert, the audio designer behind the soundtrack, about what it was like to write music in the key of “Nyan.”

Evolver.fm: How did you get the opportunity to design the music for Nyan Cat Adventure?

Salchert: I was a Masters student at NYU in their game audio program, working as a part-time student worker at the dental building, when I received an email from an NYU alumni about an online group dedicated to connecting NYU students with local game development internships in New York. After posting my information to the group I was contacted by 21st Street Games’ Creative Director Brian Ferrara about an job opening in their sound department at their new development studio. As it turned out, I was the entire audio department! The position was really a trial to determine the benefits of an in-house sound person, and I’m happy to say I survived the trial period. I was put to work right away, with Nyan Cat Adventure being one of my first commercial projects.

Evolver.fm: Were there any specific things that inspired you during the writing process?  There’s definitely the retro arcade sound with the familar Nyan Cat theme.

Salchert: Yes, the glory of the 8-bit retro gaming days was a huge inspiration for the project — especially the music. Coming from a traditional composition and orchestration background, it was a fun challenge to switch gears and research the hardware constraints composers had to deal with when 8-bit was the only way to go. I used the ES P Polyphonic Synth, one of the built-in synths in Logic, to make most of the sounds used in the soundtrack. It allows you to specify pure tones, and from that, create the synth tones that are iconic of 8-bit music.

Evolver.fm: Did you have to use any experimental techniques to convey the sense of such a strange character?

Salchert: With Nyan Cat already having such a strong following, I was hesitant to put too much of my own personal impressions on the game. Instead, I tried to paint with broader strokes to create an atmosphere that matched the artistic direction of the game (hence the 8-bit music and sound effects). The intention was that no matter who was playing the game, there was always something unique yet distinctively “Nyan” for the player to connect with.

Evolver.fm: Nyan Cat Adventure does an excellent job to frustrate players visually. Is there an aural purpose to the game?

Salchert: If anything, I would have to say the audio in the game acts more as an anchor when the “pill effects” take place. There is so much happening visually in the game that the audio is used to keep players on track, alerting them when they take damage, and get power-ups, power-downs, and invincibility. Basically, when in doubt, let the audio lead the way.

Evolver.fm: How does it feel to lend your talents to one of the most popular Internet figures today?

Salchert: Having Nyan Cat Adventure as my first commercial project was a terrifying and extremely satisfying experience at the same time. Nyan Cat [the video] has well over 68,000,000 views in the past year, which means a lot of fans with very high expectations when it comes to turning their favorite meme into a game. I wanted to create something that was unique, approachable, and distinctly “Nyan” all at the same time, and in the end I’m proud of what it became.

Nyan Cat Adventure ($1) is available for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.