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Audiosurf review
Music: Your Ride


An indie game available for download via Steam and developed by Dylan Fitterer, Audiosurf is one of the most well-known casual titles in indie gaming. Utilising music from the player’s library to create tracks, the game sees players racing along bends and curves created around their favourite songs. Using an intriguing combination of music and gaming, the game’s simplistic design becomes surprisingly addictive quite quickly.

Keeping with the theme of simplicity, the controls can be switched between two options: your mouse or a couple of keys (the mouse being a lot more fun though). The control scheme consists of your basic movement left and right, as well as using your chosen character’s special abilities. The controls are therefore very easily accessible, and are customisable to adhere to the taste of the gamer.

Before you can begin the race, you need to select your music. The game conveniently supports a number of well known music file formats such as M4A, MP3 and WMA (and some others). As it loads up the song, it creates a track to mirror. The various levels of character speed and track steepness are entirely controlled by your choice of music. Slower songs will see you crawl along at a snail pace and be going uphill, while faster songs (and therefore, much more enjoyable songs) will see you speeding down steep descents thereby increasing the difficulty level. This is interesting, considering your library of music gives you a degree of control over the difficulty of the game, which is a nice touch. And, if you have a large library like me, you’ll find yourself wasting away the hours testing out all the different songs to see what sort of tracks are created as a result.

Wimpy song is wimpy.

So what is the aim other than to race from one end of the track to the other? Well the idea is to collect all the coloured blocks you see, which are then converted into points. Meanwhile, you are to avoid all the nasty grey blocks, which act as the obstacles for the game. Each of the three lanes also has seven empty slots, making for a total of twenty-one. For each time you hit a block, it then gets loaded into the most bottom empty slot of that lane. While coloured blocks will build up and then be turned into points, grey blocks will remain in the slot and stop you from getting the higher scores, unless you have the ability to remove them or die from all of one lane being filled and having to wait several seconds to respawn. The goal therefore, is to try and collect large groups of coloured blocks for combo points while avoiding the greys at all costs.

There is also a pickup system, though it’s not available to all the racers (mono racers miss out for obvious reasons). Randomly sewn along the track, these power-ups present a great way to jack up your score. You’ve got the storm pickup which throws out several same-coloured blocks, the multiplier pickup to make your next batch worth more points, and the paint pickup which turns all the coloured blocks into the same colour. Although these pickups are the way to the real scores (assuming beating everyone for that song is the reason you’re playing), their application is no more complicated than “pick up and go”.

Real man's track - hopefully not Through the Fire and Flames (yes, even on Audisurf, it's too popular for its own good).

What spices this system up a little more is the character selection. Characters are categorised by easy, medium and hard (there’s also a really difficult Ironmode). Whether it is the ability to jump, move blocks into different lanes, or delete an entire colour of blocks, each character presents a unique gameplay opportunity. There is also a double-ship choice, which essentially acts as your multiplayer mode for this game, with one player on the keyboard and one on the mouse. Although this can be fun at times, it’s a lot easier just to take it in turns playing with a single ship. And though switching between all the characters will be the most fun, it’s best to pick and stay with what works best for you if you want to achieve solid high scores.

Perceivable as also being part of the multiplayer of this game, tracks also work off a high score system. Progress is measured off the points generated and a medal tally of bronze, silver and gold is also awarded to the player. Once the player has created an account with Audiosurf, they can log into it during gameplay and it will automatically post their end-track results to the internet, allowing the player to compare their results with other players of similar music taste (whether they be randoms or friends). This can be a fun little thing, especially if you’re OCD, but it’s also quite easily confused/abused. By just a slight variation in the song title, or someone not tagging their music properly, they can suddenly be number one on a leader board. Audiosurf does not have the ability to auto-correct such errors and, as such, relies on you and everyone else to correctly tag their music (and, let’s face it, most people don’t).

Audiosurf is a technicoloured assault on the eyes, with bold, vibrant colours used to create the tracks. Interestingly, the track colour scheme is a cold-to-hot (blue-to-red) system, representing the speed and difficulty of that particular part of the track. The game also gives the player a decent level of control over the graphics. There’s a level above what it’s set to when you download the game which, as long as you have a decent computer, is well worth taking the opportunity to use for a more refined game design. You can also change such settings as the colour of the background and the actual colour scheme of the entire game (rusty, negative, paint, etc).

Double negative.

There’s not much to say about the sound. If you’ve got a good music library (do you enjoy your own music collection?), then you’ll absolutely love the soundtrack of this game. Again, like with the graphics it chucks up some options, such as different sounds for points achievements, and the awesome ability to scrobble the music you’re currently playing in the game onto your last.fm account.

Audiosurf is simplicity at its best. Rather than being a game of depth and complexity, the indie title opts for a simple combination of two of your favourite hobbies (gaming and listening to music: any gamer’s ideal setup) which merges your music collection with an explosion of rainbows, with the end result of a game which is really quite addictive. With game length being dependent on your choice of music, and the ability to just pick or drop the game whenever you wish, it’s a title you’ll find yourself constantly going back to in times of boredom when you just don’t feel like putting any effort into your gaming. Although it’s lacking in terms of multiplayer, and doesn’t have any different modes or achievements to offer other than high scores for those OCD players, at the end of the day you get what you pay for and, simple as it is, Audiosurf is a nice bit of cheap fun.

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