It’s early days, but 2023 already seems to have a defining breakout indie hit: Pizza Tower (opens in new tab), a breakneck platformer that combines some of the best elements of Wario Land and 2D Sonic with an art style like an alternate-timeline’s ’90s Nickelodeon cartoon. It also sounds incredible (opens in new tab), like a 2D platformer soundtrack has no right to go this hard, but Ronan “Mr. Sauceman” de Castel and ClascyJitto (opens in new tab) (also credited as Frostix) made it happen.
Take the opening track, Time For A Smackdown (opens in new tab)—it begins all funky and lowkey, and then just launches into this guitar line I haven’t been able to get out of my head for the past few weeks. Ditto for It’s Pizza Time! (opens in new tab), the theme of the game’s end-of-level escape sprints, which builds into a frantic jam as the clock ticks down.
Real banger hours continue with The Death That I Deservioli (opens in new tab), a theme for the round two escape that I’ve never been good at the game or daring enough to attempt, and guest composer PostElvis (opens in new tab)‘ main menu theme Pizza Deluxe (opens in new tab) is a nice, chill comedown (featuring what I’m pretty sure are audio samples of Wario hollering). For a final curated sampling of the OST, Celsius Troubles (opens in new tab) is probably my favorite contribution from ClascyJitto, the perfect ice level music with a real dancy twist halfway through. This is music I can lift weights to, the highest honor in my power to confer.
First-time composer, all-time sound
I caught up with de Castel, one of the game’s two main composers, to find out what it takes to make a 73-track collection of bangers like this, and was surprised to find out that this is his first real published work as a musician. De Castel had enjoyed playing the piano for years, but never taken formal lessons, and described his first forays into digital composition as “basically a hobby that I’ve taken pretty late in my life.”
“It was just terrible at first, as for everybody, but I made hundreds and hundreds of music tracks for personal projects that would never see the light of day,” de Castel told me, describing a situation familiar to many artists and writers. “It’s just so hard to get stuff out there, like you’re kind of ashamed of what you make, it sounds so bad!”
It isn’t often that a composer pitches the game’s developer about working together, usually it works the other way. “I was just completely captivated by the clips I was seeing on Twitter, just thinking ‘Wow, that looks amazing,'” de Castel told me of first coming in contact with Pizza Tower. “And it was at the time I was just starting out and taking music seriously.”
De Castel mocked up a sort of demo/introductory track to send to Pizza Tower’s lead developer, McPig, while not expecting much from it. Whatever rough state it was in, that track was a very early version of that aforementioned dinger, It’s Pizza Time!, and it won de Castel a role as one of the game’s primary composers.
“That was the first ever song I made for the game,” de Castel explains of It’s Pizza Time! “That was actually the track that I sent in my email to McPig. You know, “Here’s a track, if you like it, cool! I’m kind of wondering, ‘What sold him?’ Because the song itself was just horrible sounding back then, before I made some improvements to it.”
“I got an email back and was just completely shocked. McPig said something like ‘Yeah, I love the music, we’re taking you in.’ I was just completely surprised by it!”
De Castel’s collaborators, co-composer ClascyJitto and main menu theme creator PostElvis were similarly sourced from Pizza Tower’s early fans. While I’m more of a Celsius Troubles guy, de Castel singles out ClascyJitto’s track Wudpecker as a favorite from his collaborator.
In terms of music from videogames, de Castel cites some inspirations in line with Pizza Tower’s gameplay lineage: the Wario Land series, particularly the fourth game on the Game Boy Advance, and Sonic CD, which like Pizza Tower is a game you listen to and wonder just why they made a 2D platformer sound this good (opens in new tab). Outside games, de Castel points to funk, house, and electronic music more broadly as what he wanted to emulate in Pizza Tower’s OST, pointing to artists like the Chick Corea (opens in new tab), Daft Punk, Mr. Oizo (opens in new tab), and Justice (opens in new tab). “That’s been the baseline for all the music in the game. It’s just very funky stuff.”
The Future of Pizza
“It’s just like this completely new territory for us that we’re not ready yet,” de Castel told me of the game’s newfound popularity. “Its success has been overwhelming in many ways. But it’s also awesome because we’ve been listening to a lot of covers, remixes, and mashups.”
“Everybody playing the game and streaming, it’s just a blast to watch that stuff. Something like you’ve worked on for nearly five years finally being shown simply makes us very proud.”
At the moment, Tour de Pizza is basking in the success, but de Castel also has a personal project in the works: Dust Riser (opens in new tab), a rendercore RPG that promises a surreal aesthetic and more of de Castel’s standout music. The project’s quiet at the moment, but the composer indicated that we can expect to hear more about Dust Riser as 2023 goes on. ClascyJitto, for their part, seems to have a number of projects in the works, including a new album, HI-SPEED EXPLOSION DEVICE [GOLD] (opens in new tab) dropping May 8.