Tuesday, February 26, 2008


My computer has been beyond ill. Since August I've been having problems...first a memory stick, then Vista problems (o rly?), then more memory issues...it all started to amount to something my mind was neither prepared or willing to grasp. Finally, I said (defiantly) "fuck it!" and bought a new motherboard and power supply. Did that fix my misgivings? No. But a simple BIOS update after that did. It's the little things that make up life.

So now I'm typing on a fully functioning, monstrous gaming leviathan. And it feels good. Unfortunately, I couldn't backup my Crysis saved games, so I'll have to play through the first few hours over again (darn?). I see that as half re-reading a bad story, but half re-living the first chilling taste of beer. It's something I'm willing to do.

But it's been a while since I actually wrote anything here, so let me start with something new for me--a review.

I gave Audiosurf another try to win over my $9.95 this weekend, but it just couldn't do anything for me. Let me make something very clear first: I love audio games. Hell, I even have Gitaroo Man and will gladly argue the awesomeness of that game to any opposition (that is, if anyone knows the game so much as to oppose it in the first place). So, when I first heard about Audiosurf last year, I felt a definite flutter in my chest. Here was a game that boasted to be interactive with anything you had to throw at it. Dodging/matching blocks based on music? Puzzle aspect? Yup, it had all of that, too. At that wondrous point in time, Audiosurf seemed to float somewhere between "dream come true" and "perfect."

My excitement mounted as I loaded up the beta, and when I imported up my first song, that excitement was well-founded. I played through The Smashing Pumpkins' "Today". The short opening build before the explosion of music was accentuated tenfold thanks to Audiosurf's killer visual presentation, and the consistency throughout the song made for a truly unique and memorable music experience. My roommate, too, standing behind me couldn't help but utter "cool" at least twice throughout the song.

Audiosurf's basic premise is kind of like Lumines, or the ancient multiplatform classic Klax, but with a fun, fast(er?)-paced presentation (well, depending on the song you choose). The music you pick is transformed into a physical medium as the game creates a literal track for whatever song you decide to play. That track is then given unique characteristics (elevation and falls--think old-fashioned roller-coaster) based on how that music sounds (tempo mostly). Thus, you are surfing your audio. Do you see what they did there?

You "drive" a sort of hover vehicle that's akin to Wipeout's futuristic hover-things. In fact, the actual visual presentation is quite similar overall to Wipeout. It's the gameplay that sets this very, very far apart. As you fly/hover through your audio's track, the game uses your music to create blocks that appear almost as barriers in front of your vehicle. Driving through these blocks absorbs them into a grid under your vehicle, Tetris-style. Matching three or more of the same colored blocks either vertically, horizontally, or a combination of the two causes those blocks to disappear, and awards you with points. Certain colors are worth more points, too--for example, red pieces (that only occur during fast parts of songs) are worth the most.

So, the strategy in this game comes with how you maneuver left and right through your musical track, matching colored pieces and trying not over overload your grid's columns with nonsensical color combinations. It's certainly an interesting and never-before-done concept. But I didn't like it.

Why? Well for two main reasons. First off, this game's ability to be fun is heavily dependent on your personal taste in music. If you don't have a certain kind of song, with a certain kind of music tempo or sound, the track that's generated for you will be annoying and unplayable. For example, I played The Smashing Pumpkins' "1979" and had a terrible experience. Because the song has a low bass line coupled with an articulated drum beat...the drum beat was brought out the most in the gameplay. This meant that the speed that my hover-thing cruised through my track was anything but cruising. Whenever the drum beat peaked, the vehicle would suddenly thrust forward, but them immediately slow down when the drums weren't as prominent. The track was also comprised of a small hill every few "feet" for the same peaking-drum-beat reason, so on top of jerking fast and then slow, I was wavering up and down and up and down like some nightmarish boat ride. Couple all of that bullshit with trying to figure a puzzle aspect into the game, and you have ultimate failure. The game wasn't remotely fun.

So, I went through my collection and played a slew of other songs. Some worked well (Slayer's "Raining Blood"), but most didn't (Pearl Jam's "Even Flow", AC/DC's "Thunderstruck", several Nirvana songs). It seems like this game really doesn't like rock music all too much. At least not the kind with definite drum beats or changes in loudness and softness. For some reason the game seems to think that "loudness' translates to "tempo speed". Just because a song is loud doesn't mean it's faster. But in the game, that's precisely what this means.

But even with the songs that are fun to race through, the puzzle aspect slowly becomes kind of shallow. It's fun to match the colored barriers to the notes and beats of your music, but it's soon tiring to properly formulate a strategy in order to do this. This is especially precedent on the harder difficulties, when you're zipping back and forth trying to concentrate more on the colors than the music that's producing them. Maybe this is just me, but that's annoying as hell. Thankfully, there are several different game modes attached to the various vehicles you can play as, which really pushes the gameplay a lot further. So, for me, the puzzle-ness failed after a while, but for you, it might be a never-ending nirvana. But I doubt it.

And when I played the final, updated final version...the same problems were front and present. Thus, Audiosurf is a great idea and possibly a fun-as-hell game for some people (and at only 10 bucks, you don't have much to lose), but not me. There's a demo out there on Steam--I'd try that first.

I give this game 8/10

There, I wrote a game review. Not bad, eh? I'll try and get better with time.

Till next time.

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