Audiosurf – Music-adapting Puzzle Racer Review


”’Platform: PC Windows”’

Even having spent the last hour having ‘just one more go’ I’m still not sure I can call Audiosurf a game. Your arty types might call it DIY synaesthesia, while your cynical types might call it a glorified MP3 visualiser. I’m not going to call it anything – I’m just going to tell you what it is and what it does and why I really think you ought to try it.

In a way, Audiosurf is a combination of the music action game (e.g. Amplitude or Guitar Hero) and the traditional block puzzle game (e.g. Lumines or Columns). Your mouse controls a sort of sleek, Wipeout-style racer that speeds above a ribbon of undulating track. Sitting in the different lanes of the track are a series of coloured blocks, and by running into the blocks you add them to a grid superimposed beneath your racer. Clump three blocks of the same colour together and they disappear, adding points to your score. Allow a column of your grid to overfill with blocks and your racer explodes, forcing you to wait for a while as it respawns. At the end of each track you get a score. Nothing particularly imaginative or exciting here, you might think.

Graphically, the game wears its influences on its sleeve. It looks a little like Harmonix’s pioneering music game, Amplitude, while the ships and tracks remind you of Wipeout Pure. There’s a lot of blurred neon psychedelia being splashed around, and that – combined with the simple vector shapes – instantly puts you in mind of Tempest 2000, Rez and the Geometry Wars/Everyday Shooter school of retro shooters. As weird structures slip into view and stars explode like fireworks in the background Audiosurf can look quite amazing, but then so can the visualiser effects built into the Xbox 360’s media player – and I don’t spend hours of my time staring at that. Again, there’s nothing that new or unexpected.

Well, actually there is, and the clue is in the game’s title. The tracks in Audiosurf are created from the music files found in the various libraries and stores on your PC. Pick a difficulty level and a game mode then locate and select your track and the program analyses the music, transforming the different beats, instruments and variations in pitch and tempo into blocks, climbs, drops, twists, turns and background scenery. The game works with CD audio tracks and MP3s, plus WMA, OGG and iTunes Plus tracks (though not the standard DRM-enabled efforts). What this means is that your experience of the game will depend entirely on the tracks you feed it. Give it slow, ambient tracks and you get a slow, ambient game with a spare, minimalist style. Give it fast tracks with layered instruments and a lot of beats and you’ll get a fast, frantic game with a lot of visual fireworks.

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