Riding Audiosurf’s Technicolor rollercoaster

It’s interesting how gaming habits change. I used to be pretty hardcore, complete with mad skillz and everything. First-person shooters were my thing back in the day, and I mostly plied my trade at LAN parties and on dormitory networks. After university, my TR test lab—essentially the entirety of my basement suite at the time—played host to weekly Battlefield sessions that would run until three of four in the morning. Then our group started dabbling in consoles, trading office chairs for comfortable couches, and shifting genres away from shooters to more varied fare suitable for analog thumbsticks.

At some point over the last few years, we started to get old. Or maybe we just found better ways to spend our evenings. Our nearly all-night sessions soon petered out at one or two in the morning. Sometimes, we’d even call it quits before midnight. We’ve stopped playing as often, too. What was once a weekly ritual has become a more occasional indulgence.

I’m playing games a lot more on my own these days. After years enjoying the camaraderie and trash talk of LAN parties and local multiplayer sessions, I can’t get too excited about venturing online, so I’ve been enjoying single-player campaigns on both the PC and my Xbox 360. Unfortunately, I rarely have enough time to properly immerse myself in the latest AAA titles. Rather than losing myself inside alternate worlds for hours at a time, I’m playing in smaller bursts—20 minutes here and half an hour there. Recently, that time has been devoted exclusively to Audiosurf.

Perhaps best described as a blend of Wipeout and Guitar Hero fed through a Winamp visualization plug-in, Audiosurf offers a unique spin on arcadey, rhythm-based racing. I’m not usually a fan of the rhythm genre, perhaps because as a white computer geek, I lack rhythm in general. But I do have a rather large collection of meticulously ripped, high-bitrate MP3s culled from a collection of CDs I’ve been building since long before I had good taste in music. Those tracks are what fuels Audiosurf, providing the foundation for each track, er, level.

Audiosurf encourages you to “ride your music,” effectively putting players directly onto each track. The tracks are treated almost like roadways, complete with multiple lanes of traffic to dodge or collect. Nearly everything, from the slope and direction of the track to the level of traffic congestion and even the colors, is defined by the music. Load up some death metal or hardcore drum and bass, and you’re in for a wild ride. Or, if you prefer a more relaxing experience, try easy listening. I’ve played the game with everything from KMDFM to Tom Waits, and while faster tempos present considerably greater challenges, even slower songs provide ample entertainment.

The tight integration of soundtrack, gameplay, and visuals makes for a surprisingly immersive experience. I’m used to getting pulled in by realistic graphics, but Audiosurf‘s visuals are pedestrian at best. Instead, it’s the direct link between music and the pace of gameplay that draws me in and keeps me hooked. Online leaderboards for each song help to keep things interesting, and they’ve inspired me to play with more obscure songs, if only to better my chances of a high score, even if it’s the only one.

Bound only by the breadth and depth of your music collection, Audiosurf offers a practically endless supply tracks to run through. There are multiple gameplay modes, too, each with different rules about which traffic blocks to collect and which to avoid. These modes also give your ship different capabilities, including the ability to destroy blocks, jump over them, or shuffle the ones you’ve collected so far. Heck, there’s even a two-player mode. Add in three difficulty levels and a special Ironman mode, and it’s easy to tailor the game to suit not only your skill level, but also your mood.

Audiosurf is currently available exclusively through Steam, where it costs just $10. I think it’s worth every penny, especially because a recent update added a low-detail mode designed to run well on netbooks with crappy Intel integrated graphics, like my Eee PC 1000HA. Needless to say, you don’t need high-end hardware for this game to run smoothly. You might not even need a PC for long, either. The game’s creator is on record as saying that a console would be a “natural fit,” and it seems like a great candidate for the Xbox Live Arcade or PlayStation Network.

As much as I’ve been loving Audiosurf, there are limits to its appeal. The puzzle modes aren’t all that cerebral, for example, and there isn’t much in the way of complexity to explore. I can’t see the game sustaining me for an entire evening, either, or at least not without the help of a generous serving of mind-altering substances. But that’s not really a problem, because these days, short bursts of time are all I have, and I can’t think of a better way to spend them than riding Audiosurf‘s Technicolor rollercoaster.

Comments closed
    • blubje
    • 9 years ago

    Well if you look around on the internet’s seedier byways, you can find a ripped copy of it for free, to determine if it;s even worth the trouble of downloading and installing Steam so you can pay for a legal copy.

    In fact, I modified a distributed copy to drop all the Steam-required exes. Just launch with the executable. (And yes, it’s been checked with an antivirus, ESET’s Smart Security 4.2 suite.)

    ยง[< http://www.mediafire.com/?sharekey=b4558eda128a99e5ab1eab3e9fa335ca6d7a29b301fb7095<]ยง If you like it, buy it. If you don't delete it. I can't wait to see what happens with AudioSurf 2. Maybe loop-de-loops? Jumps and breaks in rhythm with the music?

    • Usacomp2k3
    • 11 years ago

    So I’ve been playing the demo on my laptop. It runs great at the minimal quality level on my GMA950 laptop. I second that this would work great for consoles.

    Do people use the mouse or keyboard mostly?

    The only trouble I have is that the grey and blue blocks often look extremely alike. That might have something to do with the decreased quality.

      • DrDillyBar
      • 11 years ago

      Mouse

    • floodo1
    • 11 years ago

    seriously just go watch a video on youtube. you’ll see that the gameplay is focused around hitting colored blocks that are on the track in sync with the beats. you need to “stack” the blocks in a grid at the bottom of the track. So the gameplay is sorta like a stacking type puzzle game.

    The music integration is that the track is generated in response to the music. so turns and elevation and blocks change with rythyms.

    So it’s not guitar hero (rythym game) but idk puzzle bobble (hehe) (stacking puzzle game) with music integration.

    So it’s no Rez folks ๐Ÿ™ In fact, I’m gonna hook up some Rez emulation right now ๐Ÿ™‚

    • nonegatives
    • 11 years ago

    This game is dangerous. When I hear a song that I’ve played, I find myself bouncing and wanting to swerve while driving. It encourages a search through the old music catalog.

    • ShadowTiger
    • 11 years ago

    One of these days I will go back and retake my throne as #1 in the world for various (admittedly not mainstream) songs… i just hate steam… rahh!

    btw Hardcore Mono ftw… (which sounds really weird…)

    • Ubik
    • 11 years ago

    This is a great “snack” game, i.e. something you can pick up for 10-30 minutes to kill time and have fun, without worrying too much about reaching goals or accomplishing tasks. It can be pretty engrossing with the right music, too – I spent an hour basically playing every Pendulum track I have on Audiosurf just because the pace is so fast and enjoyable.

    • silent ninjah
    • 11 years ago

    I got this when it was on sale for like 2 quid. I like it, not a fan of anything but the mono, though.

    I prefer just using ninja skills to dodge and grab, none of that colour matching crap.

    Some tracks can be insanely difficult to do perfectly. My favourite so far has been ninja mono + ironman with the track H.T by spicy stewed donut (Trigun theme).

    • brm001
    • 11 years ago

    It’s really too bad this game wasn’t designed with balance in mind. Some ships are inherently better at scoring points on Elite difficulty and there aren’t separate scoreboards on a per-ship basis. Though if there were per-ship scoreboards, they would combine with the game’s email score notifications (if you were in first place, you get an email when you’re defeated) to take up all of my time.

    • NeronetFi
    • 11 years ago

    Audiosurf is one of those game I enjoy to play for a short period, and like others have said its always fun to play a new song.

    I Normally play to Techno music. Audiosurf and Techno…..the way its meant to be played….IMO – If you listen to “Scooter” there tracks are awsome in audio surf b/c they change tempo alot

    • TurtlePerson2
    • 11 years ago

    I picked this one up for $2.50 on a steam deal because a friend of mine really liked it. I tried it with a couple of songs and it didn’t really pique my interest. I just couldn’t find the relation between the song and the rhythms it had me doing. I just didn’t feel like I was riding my music.

      • ihira
      • 11 years ago

      Same, I was expecting a rythm game like guitar hero using your mp3s but it was vastly different from that.

      I like how the tracks changes speed and shape in sync creating an immersive feel but the actual gameplay was pretty underwhelming for me.
      I would say its more close to drop down puzzle games like tetris or columns.

    • danazar
    • 11 years ago

    I would probably try this game out were it not for the Steam requirement.

      • Philldoe
      • 11 years ago

      I’m with this guy. Were it not for the requirement of Steam, I’d be all over it.

        • BoBzeBuilder
        • 11 years ago

        What’s the matter? You don’t have access to the internet?

        I’ve been using Steam ever since it came out without a single issue.

          • NeronetFi
          • 11 years ago

          I agree, Steam has never caused me any issues. It doesnt run unless I launch it. So what is your problem with Steam?

          • Waco
          • 11 years ago

          Agreed. What beef could someone possibly have with Steam?

      • BenBasson
      • 11 years ago

      Steam is free and the demo is free. What’s the worst that can happen?

        • A_Pickle
        • 11 years ago

        DERP It requires Steam DERP DERP DERP.

        Seriously, I don’t get all the hate. People just seem to like hating. And Steam is easy to hate. About the only gripe I have with Steam is that it routinely exceeds 100 MB of memory usage, which seems a bit much for it’s rather simplistic interface and function. Given that it’s also marketed to gamers (who care about performance — and rightly so), you’d think they’d be a little more observant on the whole “gluttoning of system resources” front.

        That, and the interface is slow as shit when it’s loading… and is iffy even after fully loading. Sometimes clicks don’t register, etc.

    • BoBzeBuilder
    • 11 years ago

    I really like Audiosurf since it handles metal songs really well. FYI metal FTW

    But I did get very pissed when I learned the majority of my iTunes music is DRM infected, and thus unable to play them.

    • grantmeaname
    • 11 years ago

    I’m a big fan. I caught it for 4.99 around Christmas.

    It’s one of about four games (all casual) that my girlfriend likes… that alone is worth five dollars. If only she didn’t kick my butt in the cooperative mode…

    • HurgyMcGurgyGurg
    • 11 years ago

    I bought Audiosurf about six months ago and I enjoyed it for about a week. But I just can’t adjust enough to it because I’m to used to Guitar Hero style music interaction games.

    Sure it was worth the money and is still fun to pop into for a new song but it just isn’t quite “there” yet. Maybe Audiosurf 2, (If there is one) will get me hooked.

    • eitje
    • 11 years ago

    I’ve agreed with everyone that’s posted so far. Audiosurf is just one of those sleeper hits.

    • DrDillyBar
    • 11 years ago

    Audiosurf is a great game. I love gonig through my old music looking for a challenging race. I tend to use Vegas mode myself.

    • Vasilyfav
    • 11 years ago

    I remember getting this on sale for $2.95 last fall, was cheaper than one gallon of gas and certainly much more enjoyable.

      • ssidbroadcast
      • 11 years ago

      playing with gas can be fun, too.

    • Fastfreak39
    • 11 years ago

    I’ve had this game since it came out. Well worth the $10 or so that it is now. One of the few games that I go back to on a regular basis.

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 11 years ago

    I’ve wanted to play this thing since Day 1, but Steam exclusivity prevents me from doing so (I’m OS X only).

      • Voldenuit
      • 11 years ago

      Same here. Audiosurf sounds amazing (I loved Rez, and can only imagine what it would be like as a freeform instead of scripted sequence), but I will never buy a Steam game because I don’t believe in server-authenticated DRM.

        • indeego
        • 11 years ago

        How did you post today, theng{

          • Scrotos
          • 11 years ago

          He said server authentication DRM, not server authentication. Unless this forum is a giant form of DRM? I dunno? Is that taking the interpretation a bit far?

      • BenBasson
      • 11 years ago

      Doesn’t being on OS X basically prevent you from gaming?

        • ssidbroadcast
        • 11 years ago

        Yes. Yes it does. This is intentional behavior control on my part.

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