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Audiosurf

Totally Addicted to Bass

There are a selection of different modes for players to try out too, each of which is represented by a different type of ship and set of special abilities. These different modes can be divided into Easy, Medium or Hard difficulties, and they really give the game an edge on replayability.

For example, the most basic game mode is Mono, where players simply collect all coloured bricks in whatever order they can and avoid the grey bricks. On Easy skill level Mono is basically a walk in the park – but it soon gets tougher in the Mono Pro and Ninja Mono variations that let the game recognise far more beats and will therefore throw bricks at you much faster.

Perhaps the most appealing game mode for first-timers though is Pointman, which again is available in Easy, Medium and Hard variations. Pointman is a mode where the colour of blocks matters and where players can hold down a mouse button (the game is best played only with the mouse) to scoop up colours and dump them elsewhere – handy for getting out of a jiffy if your grid starts to overfill.

Audiosurf Rollercoaster Ride
Before you play each song you can preview the route and traffic

After this there are a few other variations. Pusher lets you funnel bricks into other rows in the grid, while Double Vision is a two player mode where each player controls half of the board. Double Vision poses an interesting dilemma for duos as it can be used as either a co-operative or versus game – though either way the sense of ‘playing the music’ is diminished somewhat as each player will only hit half of the beats in a song.

It’s also worth mentioning that the game comes with a digital version of the complete Orange Box sound track. Players can play any tune they want from the pack, though some are more fun to play through than others. At the time of review the Jonathon Coulton mix of Still Alive is easily the most popular song on the online leaderboard – though it has to be said that the soundtrack for Team Fortress 2 is both short and uninteresting compared to the rest of the music.

The major appeal for Audiosurf lies in being able to scan in your own music though and the game will accept all popular file formats - .WMA, .MP3, .WAV, etc (though it won’t read DRM protected tracks apparently) – as well as reading from CDs.

We tried a number of genres and tracks out in Audiosurf and were hugely impressed by the way the game detects the beats. Sometimes it doesn’t appear that the game is detecting every beat, but much of that is due to the difficulty setting. Too low and you won’t see every note – too high and you’ll see far too many to keep track. In fact, that’s a massive appeal of the game; trying to find songs that are so fast you can’t possibly keep up with them.

Audiosurf Rollercoaster Ride Audiosurf Rollercoaster Ride
Online leaderboards and achievements give the game a goal


I have a fairly varied taste in music and I tried everything from David Bowie’s Moss Garden, which resulted in an incredibly long, dull level, to Mr Chainsaw by Alkaline Trio, which produced a crazy-fast torrent of colour.

By far my favourite tracks though are Midnight at the Lost and Found and Bat Out of Hell by Meat Loaf. While the first song creates a level with excellent beat recognition and gently escalating rhythm, the later creates a truly epic emotional ride filled with high peaks and low valleys with steep sides. Falling in and out of the crescendo for full version of Bat Out of Hell is utterly enthralling, though the effect is massively diluted on Double Vision mode.

Conclusions

Audiosurf is an incredibly impressive game, though the fact that it is admittedly late to the crowded music genre means that it can’t make the same claims to innovation as its forebears.

Unfortunately, not everyone is going to like the game and much of that is going to be because it inevitably draws comparisons to its brothers and sisters – especially Rez HD. When comparing the two though it’s worth pointing out the trade-offs that have occurred. While Rez offers an experience that is far more synaesthestic and connected to the song you listen because the animations have been scripted with a specific song in mind, Audiosurf is a far more repeatable game. You can replay it endlessly and use it to discover new music that you otherwise wouldn’t dare assault your ears with.

If that trade-off sounds good to you, then Audiosurf is definitely a game you’ll want to buy. It’s certainly saying something that, even though we could have got the game for free, we actually chose to buy it and base our review off our actual copies too. That’s not something we can say for every game, and that’s why this little arcadey puzzler is going to score so well!

Oh, and by the way: Our favourite songs of the moment include Danko Jones' album I'm Alive and On Fire, the Star Wars Imperial Death March and anything by Deadfall. Let us know your favourite tracks in the forums.

Audiosurf Rollercoaster Ride

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