AudioSurf – Riding the Wave

by May 24th, 2009 - Culture » Sounds » Culture » Video Games »

“Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel. I have always needed Fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.”

Hunter S. ThompsonKingdom of Fear
Simon and Schuster, 2003

That is one of the most beautiful and true things that Hunter S. Thompson ever wrote.

Indeed, I have encountered few greater joys than to be blissfully ignorant of the dangers surrounding me as I walk through dark, dreamily vacant streets lost in a haze of convoluted thoughts quite literally fueled by the music swirling from out my headphones and into my ears.

I’ve had similar experiences driving my pac-man car down the popping yellow dots of a midnight road, my mind’s eye lost just beyond the limit of the headlights, an endless, perilous game of cat-and-mouse as I attempt to catch up with my thoughts.

And an average day in the life can be made something completely other just by setting the right soundtrack, exploding a grey day into a prismatic orgy of ideas and action.

With all these fantastic flights of fancy flitting about, how is that I find myself mostly absorbed by video games? Many are entertaining and imaginative, but they really offer anything the like of which a walk-about can, instead locking one into a tetanus roller-coaster one track mindset, a slobbering zombie battling slobbering zombies in many cases.

And then I stumble across AudioSurf, a “music-adapting puzzle racer”, marrying together my many loves into something new and endless. Available for the PC and downloadable through Steam – the very excellent game portal by them fine Half Life, Left 4 Dead, Portal makin’ monkeys at Valve – AudioSurf will analyze any song you have on CD or hard drive and create a cornucopia light show ride to the beat of the music of your mind, collecting different colored blocks along a 4 lane techno highway and aligning them in just the right way, three of the same color sufficing, at breakneck speeds to create such strategic chains and collect the most points without overflowing any given lane.

This is a welcome retreat from my common mode of music listening, simply shuffling through iTunes, tethering me to the computer and looping the perusal of four or five websites, the porn of which I already know by heart from earlier that day.

The game couples the panicked recognition of Tetris, Simon, Rubik’s Cube and navigating the fairy-winged freaks of a rave party you never wanted to go to in the first place, your mind racing to the combination of colored blocks three miles ahead of you that have not yet even spawned.

To be fair, it needn’t be that hectic or anxious an experience. The game offers three tiers of difficulties and several special power game modes.

The simplest of these is Mono which features one color of blocks you are to collect in contrast to the gray blocks that you should avoid, a clean finish yielding the greatest rewards.

Pointman, allows the player to hold a certain block and drop it in the desired lane at just the right moment to best please its similarly colored friends.

Pusher does much the same as Pointman, but simply brushes a colored block off to the left or right without the ability to hold it for the right moment.

The special power of Vegas mode causes the board to reshuffle for, perhaps, a more favorable playing field.

Eraser, grants the user the ability to cancel all blocks of a particular color, saving one from overflow and perhaps providing great rewards through the greatest connections.This is perhaps my favorite as I have not yet graduated to using the special features offensively and instead grab for them in a moment of panic as the board quickly fills to a cluster-fuck beyond my ability to manage.

Double Vision is an interesting mode whereby utilizing both the mouse and keyboard, one may alone or with another attempt to coordinate two cars on a four lane highway, further severing the brain into at the very least quarters.

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  • Dylan

    Great quote! Great review too.

    Send an email my way and I’ll fix the Alabama problem for you. The upcoming community site will help with this kind of thing, but it’s not quite ready yet.

  • Jason Thomas Kocher

    Did I mention Great Customer Support?

    Following a long and convoluted montage of myself scurrying through more and more obscure countries and cultures to hidden corners of the world, barreling down an ancient and eerie structure, slamming and securing door after seemingly endless door behind me until I find myself at the center of a sacred chamber no human has trespassed in eons…I whisper to the stale darkness, “I sure would like it if AudioSurf would allow me to change my region to something other than Alabama.

    And – OH! – up pops Dylan out of nowhere to spookily answer my complaints.

    Great Customer Service.

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