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Audiosurf Review

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When I was a kid I played a lot of Super Nintendo. Super Nintendo played a host to some of my favorite childhood summer time distractions, that came in the form of classics like Star Fox, Chrono Trigger, and of course Super Metroid. But one of my favorite games of all time in the history of anything ever created, called the Super Nintendo it’s home. And that game was F-Zero. Everything about it was impossibly cool, from the ultra futuristic race tracks, the fighter jet inspired hover cars, and the mind boggling speed, it was the perfect game for a kid whose primary breakfast staple was some type of sugar drenched modified cornstarch soaked in milk. But nothing lasts forever. Especially in the land of video games, where a new console always threatens to make your current setup obsolete, and the sequels to games are often times afterthoughts, or little more than cash grabs. These were the things that pushed F-Zero into the realm of almost permanent obscurity. The fact that it’s Wii reboot came and went without so much as a whimper all but confirmed it. There would be no futuristic hover car racing in my future.

Then one day I stumbled across some YouTube videos of Audiosurf while I was checking out Guitar Hero videos. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a hover car bouncing along to the tunes of Ladytron on some sleek graphically stunning cybernetic highway of lights and colors, picking up colored blocks along the way, speeding up and slowing down as the tempo changed. I was more than immediately intrigued. And jumped onto Steam. Sure enough there it was, and just ten bucks. It has seriously been the best ten dollars I’ve ever spent in my life. I can’t even begin to describe how immediately addicting this game is. After a quick download through Steam the game was ready to go, and I jumped right in. From the start the game was plugged into a community, prompting me to create a user name for myself for the game. Simple enough. Then after a quick setup I was brought to the very vibrant and colorful main menu.

The first thing I noticed was that the cars were broken into three separate categories dependent on skill, and those were: Casual, Pro, and Elite. Pretty self explanatory. While I do consider myself a pretty decent gamer, I decided for the first go around that I was no titan of sport, and opted for the casual setting. I checked out the different descriptions of the cars, and figured I’d go with the Pointman car. Once you decide on a car, and click it, the game takes you to a Song Select screen. From here there are two tabs. My Music, and Audiosurf Radio. From My Music, you can browse your hard drives to find the songs you want to play, or from Audiosurf radio, you can play some free featured music of the week. Again not wanting to venture too far into unexplored territory… I stuck with my personal music collection. The game’s music browser was very quick, and easy to use, and within no time at all I had picked out a classic Norma Jean song. When the song loaded I immediately realized how it all worked as I was propelled straight down into a rush of colored blocks and tunnels.

It works like this… Audiosurf generates a level, or a “highway” for your car to ride based on the song that you pick. Once you generate a level, you ride the song till the end, and try to link together as many colored blocks as possible along the way, each block you grab grabs you some points, and linking clusters grabs you even more. For certain cars, the colors of the blocks even influences the gameplay with the brighter colors being the most valuable, and the darker colors worth significantly less. And in the case of the Mono car, all you have to do is avoid gray bricks that prevent you from linking blocks, but all the colors are ubiquitous so your strategy becomes grabbing as many blocks as possible while avoiding the bricks to do so. It all adds a decent bit of strategy to the game, and pulls in some of the best elements of games like Dr. Mario, or Tetris. But it doesn’t end there, Audiosurf also determines the intensity of the level you are going to play, based on the intensity of the song you pick. So if you were to pick a song by someone like The Ink Spots, you would have a relatively relaxed experience, with the game generating occasional dips and bumps. But if you were to pick something like, well Norma Jean you end up with a plummet… sending your hover car into a blazingly fast free-fall.

The difference is pretty significant. With a more relaxed song, you have a much easier time of grabbing blocks, and creating chains of points as the blocks come at a much slower pace, and an intense song turns into a brain scrambling test of hand and eye coordination. Finally when you’re finished playing a song, your score is compared to anyone else in the world who has played the same song. If your score is high enough, your name goes on the scoreboard, and if you score higher than anyone else, you’ve just become the champion of that song in that skill level. If you do manage to become the champ of a particular song, and someone usurps your score, you’ll immediately get an e-mail sent to you alerting you that you’ve been dethroned.

This adds an element of competition to the game that never feels as outright or direct as racing against someone head to head, or as in your face as something like Halo, or other games where you can quickly become the subject of profanity laced tirades. It’s just kind of there. And comfortably so. The game does a great job of making you want to challenge yourself, as opposed to anyone else directly, and you can soon find yourself playing a particular song over and over just to beat your own personal best. The game even gives you a nifty reminder of how many points you’ve earned on a song if you’ve played it before, that discreetly displays at the bottom of the screen.

And visually the game is a feast for the eyes. The highways themselves are so brightly lit, and so colorfully populated that the game comes with a warning that some users may experience seizures while playing because of the intense visuals. And I’d believe it. There are times when it’s almost overwhelming for my own ocular devices. But in a very bright and very good way. And the fact that all of these bright colorful flashes, are influenced by your tunes is even cooler. The blocks are synced up to your music, the frequency and timing of your point grabs synced to the music, hell even the cars little jets pump and pulsate their flames according to the beat of the music. It’s all very cool. With a pitch perfect presentation, and more addictive than nicotine inspired gameplay, Audiosurf is definitely easy to recommend to just about anyone. And if you add in the fact that your personal music collection fuels the creation of levels… the game’s replay value extends almost infinitely, which makes it even more insane that the game is just ten bucks.

An exceptional value, and a gameplay masterpiece, Audiosurf is a must have… and it’s the perfect reason to never play Solitaire on your PC again. So why the hell don't you own this?

Steve Sawyer
Editor in Chief

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Updated 06-09-10 at 07:55 by SteveSawyer

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