Der Clou! (The Clue!) Soundtrack Review

  • Name: Der Clou! Original PC Game Soundtrack
  • Label: Osutoria Holding GmbH
  • Composer(s): Hannes Seifert
  • Number of Tracks: 25

Before I let you know how I managed to nab this album it might help to explain what Der Clou! actually is because it's probably not a very well known game amongst the current generation of gamers or those living in the English-speaking world. Der Clou! is the Austrian name for a game known in English-speaking countries as The Clue!. Der Clou! was released in 1994 and is (apparently) a remake of a much older game released in 1986 called They Stole a Million. You assume the role of a burglar named Matt Stuvysant in 1950s London and your job is to assemble a crew, scout potential places to rob, plan every minute detail of the burglary and then execute that plan. I admittedly never got too far in the game but it had an interesting premise and who could forget gems like this when you accidentally entered a taxi:

Ah good times.

Oh, the game had a pretty groovy soundtrack for its day too and it's all thanks to the efforts of a man named Hannes Seifert. You see, not only was he the composer of this game, he also developed his own proprietary sound system and music file format known as HSC ("Hannes Seifert Composer" perhaps?). This guy went on to be a producer of pretty high profile games such as Max Payne, GTA: Vice City and Hitman Absolution. He currently works as CEO of IO Interactive, famous for the Hitman franchise.

Does the soundtrack hold up today? Probably not, so here's the disclaimer: you really need to love retro PC game music to even begin appreciating this soundtrack. If oldschool music similar to MIDI and MODs sound like crap to you, then please just ignore this review. If instead it tends to evoke a sense of nostalgia, then read on!

So every so often for the past couple of decades since playing the original game, certain tunes from the soundtrack keep popping in my head. This got me wondering if there was actually any possible way to legally acquire a copy of the game's soundtrack. Firstly, I had to find the right search parameters because searching for "The Clue! soundtrack" in Google would link you to sites selling or reviewing the soundtrack to that old film based on the board game Clue/Cluedo with Tim Curry in it. The original Austrian name for the game "Der Clou!" seemed to yield better results and apparently Google Play, iTunes and Spotify all have the soundtrack available!

Since I'm not a big fan of Apple products (especially iTunes) and I feel a bit weird paying a subscription to listen to music, I decided to acquire a copy off Google Play (since I also already had a Google Play account handy). Google Play's copy is dearer than iTunes ($12.99 compared to $9.99) but we're arguing over $3 here. Besides, Google Play mentions you can playback music by...

...exporting MP3 files to your computer and playing on any MP3 compatible music player

... which sounds good to me. While they're being perfectly honest about that fact, what they fail to mention is that if you don't download the Google Play app for Chrome (which is somehow rated at 2 out of 5 stars which is never a good sign) you'll be limited to download your music only twice and that's it. So just a warning to those planning to purchase music on Google Play: make sure you don't lose your backups (or use their app and you can ignore this warning).

Anyway, I downloaded a copy of the soundtrack and you get 25 MP3s @ 320kbps. Total playtime for the album is quite short at only about 38 minutes total, but that's because most of these tracks are very short in themselves with many only being a minute long and the longest track clocking in at 3:31. The tracks are basically all the background music you hear in the game while visiting the various locations; it even contains the burglary victory and burglary failure music, although I'm not sure why they were included as they're merely sound bites of only a few seconds.

Despite all the tracks using synths (live music in games was uncommon in 1994 unless you were using Red Book Audio) there's a diverse range of styles here including reggae-inspired pop tracks, synthpop, 90s dance and classical music. There are way too many tracks here to name favourites although I fondly remember the groovy "The Streets 3" and the cool stakeout music that is "You Investigate" - I always loved it how the music seemed to play in sync with the thought bubbles. New favourites of mine include "The Getaway" which seems to channel the best of early 90s electronic music and the epic "Burglary is Running" that almost sounds heroic towards the end of the track - which seems a bit out of place during a bank heist.

However, the trio of tracks that truly stand the test of time for me are "At the Hotel" (which is perfect brisk walking music), "At Pooley's", which is obviously inspired by "All That She Wants" by Ace of Base (what do you mean you don't remember Ace of Base? Man I'm getting old...) and "At Cars and Vans", since the image of a mechanic tightening a bolt to this music always makes me laugh (yes, I'm weird like that).

In terms of disappointing tracks, the only one I could fault is perhaps "Gludo's Theme" which at least sounds like something you'd play for a bumbling inspector (so I suppose it achieves its job admirably) but the tempo changes are just too wacky for me.

Score – 8/10

If you want to experience what good PC game music was like back in the early 90s, this is a perfect track to have a listen to. Yes, it's probably a bit pricey considering it's $13 for only just over half an hour of synth blips and bleeps, but some of these tracks are so catchy that to me, they're timeless classics.

You can get this album for $12.99 on Google Play, $9.99 on iTunes or on Spotify.

[ Der Clou! Soundtrack on Google Play ]
[ Der Clou! Soundtrack on iTunes ]
[ Der Clou! Soundtrack on Spotify ]