here is nothing more refreshing to me in gaming than a simple idea that provides a great deal of fun. With all the technological advancements that come with PC upgrades and console cycles, it's easy for developers to want to show it off by creating massively complex games. Don't get me wrong, I love sitting down with a lengthy RPG or a deep RTS title, but sometimes it's nice to simply play a unique, albeit minimalist game. Audiosurf is such a game. Before we go any further let me say that when I refer to Audiosurf as minimalist, that is not an insult, but a reminder that impressive feats can be achieved through a simple idea masterfully crafted.
Audiosurf, developed by BestGameEver and available through Steam, is a music-based game that utilizes your existing library of music on your PC to create unique race tracks. The game supports MP3, iTunes M4A, WMA, OGG, and CDA (audio CD) tracks. So whether it's Audioslave or Alicia Keys, Beethoven or Beyonce, Clapton or Costello, you can play it. Audiosurf takes your songs and creates a racetrack whose twists and turns, and ups and downs, are completely a product of the beats and rhythms of the song. This singular feature means that Audiosurf has a near limitless shelf life, because each time you play it, it's a brand new race. Also, you can tailor the gameplay by the music you choose. If you feel like playing a frantic and intense song, then your race experience will reflect the same, whereas a slow and relaxing song will produce likewise. Audiosurf is all about the user creating their experience, and with a tiny price tag of $9.95, you can't go wrong.
Get past the plainness.
Pay attention to the brilliance.Audiosurf, like many games of its kind, is easy to control (it only requires either the mouse of the arrow keys) — but difficult to master. The game contains three modes — casual, pro, and elite. Each category contains different obstacles and challenges. To complete a song, you will race across a three-column track littered with different colored cubes. Below your vehicle are three columns with multiple vertical rows — similar to many puzzles games. Every time you run over three cubes of the same color that connect vertically or horizontally in the columns below you, they'll be removed from the screen and you receive points.
You might think that the game sounds pretty basic, but it ups the ante with the different vehicles you use to race. Each difficulty level has different racing vehicles ("characters") to choose from, all of which have their own abilities that will affect how you race. Take the vehicle Mono. Its very name tells you what to expect, in that you see one color of cubes on the track at a particular time. Mono is a good starter vehicle — but it does present a challenge. Along with the colored cubes on the track are gray cubes. You want to avoid these at all costs because they give you no points and remain in your columns for an extended period of time, taking up space better reserved for colored squares. Other vehicle abilities include jumping over cubes, shuffling the cubes you've already collected, pushing cubes into different columns, and even extending wings to cover all the columns on the track. There is even a vehicle type that allows a friend to race with you in a co-op fashion. When you combine different songs with different vehicle types, you can find yourself in races that will test your reflexes to their utmost.
Another obstacle to avoid is overfilling columns. If you fill a particular column with too many cubes, and no combinations are made, you'll become temporarily transparent while the column is cleared. During this transparent state, you cannot get any additional points until the column is cleared. However, to assist you throughout your races, there are a number of different power-ups scattered throughout. Some power-ups multiply your score, or turn all your collected cubes into a singular color, or add a few cubes or a particular color. To reward you, Audiosurf has achievements (much like those found on the Xbox 360 and other Steam games) to help track your gameplay. Again, I have to stress that on the outside — it's a very minimalist game. It is your music that creates the experience therein.
Graphically, Audiosurf maintains its minimalist design. The graphics consist primarily of simple shapes that make up the track, the background, and your vehicle. However, they are rendered with beautiful vibrancy and clarity and constantly change to the beat of your music. When you are playing a fast song, the track screams by you at breakneck speeds, and it glides effortlessly when playing a slower song. If you play a song with lots of bass, the track bounces up and down to replicate it. You won't race the same track twice unless you replay a song. Personally, I have absolutely no problem if designers choose to use simple graphics — especially when the game performs as well as Audiosurf does. Due to its simple design, and implementation of music already on your system, Audiosurf doesn't tax your computer. I would imagine that regardless of the PC you have, you can play Audiosurf, keeping in mind that you do have to be able to run Steam. I can't describe in words how much fun it is to crank some hard rock, and go flying down the track with the colors constantly changing. It creates a very surreal experience, and is a wonderful way to enjoy your music in a brand new way.
How many racetracks? Every song
you own, times 14 characters.Only until recently has the music that accompanies games become an aspect that many gamers pay attention to. Most gamers know the score from Halo, or from the Final Fantasy series, but what about the average game? Audiosurf is all about the music. Knowing this, no other game succeeds in terms of music better than Audiosurf. If you are only playing your own music — what's not to like? What's more, Audiosurf had me listening to music of mine I hadn't listened to in years to see how it would play out in the game. To shed some light on how I approached the game, here is the list of ten songs I used specifically to review Audiosurf:
- "Blast My Desire" — Move (J-pop)
- "Decadence" — Disturbed (Metal)
- "Take on Me" — A Ha (80s pop)
- "Simple and Clean" — Utada Hikaru (J-pop)
- "Transformer" — Gnarls Barkley (Hip Hop)
- "Anna Molly" — Incubus (Rock)
- "Headlock" — Imogen Heap (Electronica/Indie)
- "Do You Remember?" — Earth, Wind, and Fire (70s funk)
- "Evolution" — Ayumi Hamasaki (J-pop)
- "Points of Authority/ 99 Problems/ One Step Closer" — Jay Z & Linkin Park (rock/rap)
As you can see, I tried to play the game using various genres of music from different time periods and cultures. Each song played out differently, which proved to me that the game does indeed create unique tracks based on what it pulls from the song. The J-pop songs were fast and frenzied, while the Imogen Heap track was smooth and flowing. One of the greatest aspects about this game is that it allows you to experiment with your music to see what genre creates your favorite experience.
In the end, Audiosurf is a triumph. It's a small game with large aspirations, and it achieves them. As I played through the game over the past few days, I could honestly not find a single issue with which to fault Audiosurf. The only thing I could possibly find as what could be considered an issue with the game is that it is only available to Steam users. However, Steam itself is free to download. Its gameplay is unique, solid, and easy to pick up. The graphics are basic, yet beautiful. The music, which is what the game is all about, is up to you define. The idea, coupled with the price and replay, makes Audiosurf a must-own in my eyes. If you didn't have a reason to rip the music you own to your computer, you do now. You've listened to your music, now play it!