Audiosurf

Long ago, indie games were simple little distractions, easy to pick up and put down. I have nothing but admiration for the thousands of programmers with versions of Brickout where the bricks say "moo," but those days are over. That doesn't mean that all indie games have succumbed to feature bloat. On the contrary, some of the best ones stick to one thing, make it look pretty, and add a few hooks to keep people playing. Audiosurf takes your music, turns it into a racetrack, and lets you drive on it. Everything else is window dressing. The core experience is identical to blasting your favorite song while speeding and rapidly changing lanes in time with the music. Audiosurf is just as much fun, but without the cops.

The game's racetracks are sparse, futuristic highways full of colored bricks and bumps which match the contours of the song. The phatter the beat, the bumpier the ride. It's more or less a playable oscilloscope. Results vary; some players may find every track to be stultifyingly boring, because they have no taste in music and are lame. The EULA specifically states that for people who hate their own music, Audiosurf will just make things worse. For everyone else, it can play all the major file formats, from MP3 to Ogg Vorbis, with the exception of DRM-enabled songs from iTunes. Sadly, those are some of my favorite tracks. I like to think of them as songs I'm borrowing from my friend Steve Jobs. The documentation helpfully suggests that I burn those tracks to CD, then re-import them. While I'm at it, why don't I write down the lyrics and re-record them with tin cans and string? I can't blame Audiosurf for this issue, as it technically falls into the "my music is lame" category.

On the easiest settings, the game is a leisurely Sunday drive, ideal for re-discovering long forgotten songs in one's collection. To add a bit of a challenge, the puzzle aspect of the game involves stacking bricks of the same color together in combos and clearing a grid. It's Klax with a car. Higher difficulty levels require quick reflexes and intelligent stacking. It also helps to know when a song will start to rock out. There is no way to fail a song, but when a column spills over, the car momentarily loses control and the screen shakes and buzzes violently. I don't play on higher difficulty levels because that electrocution effect irritates me. If I can't fail a song, why would I need that level of negative reinforcement? Still, I can't complain about something that the game lets me avoid entirely. The online leaderboards seem to indicate that most other players don't mind a few jolts as they rack up huge scores in Ninja Elite Mode.

Even though I officially don't care about scores, I still get a thrill every time I'm ranked as the highest for a particular song. This happened pretty often in the first week, when no one was playing them yet. Recently I've received a steady stream of emails about being "dethroned" on songs by people with stupid names. All of these people are cheaters. Also, just because they score big on a Sleater-Kinney song, it doesn't mean that Carrie Brownstein would look at them twice. I happen to know that if we ever met she would fall in love with me. The leaderboard of her heart has only one name on it, and it's not PwnyTony86.

Audiosurf would have been worth $10 just for the cool ride through musical synesthesia, but it adds all the next-gen hooks we've come to expect. It has in-game online leaderboards, friend lists, and achievements. It has unlockable characters and extra-hard challenge modes. It even has free downloadable content and custom tracks. All these features make it more of a game, but what makes it brilliant is that it gives you one new way to enjoy your own music. That's all. It's a simple idea, but simple is smarter now. This is one game that knows exactly what to do and does everything right.

Comments

Results vary; some players may find every track to be stultifyingly boring, because they have no taste in music and are lame.

This was my experience, and I tried four very different (and intense) songs. Maybe there was a setting that makes it more sensitive, but the variation was pretty bland. I'm not a big puzzle game fan so the demo was fun but not enough for me to buy it.

I would love to give this a try. I plan to dominate the Massive Attack and Portishead boards.

As a full-time pro DJ/label co-founder/long-time music fan, I love this game. I've started previewing most of my new tracks in Audiosurf, as it adds another dimension to the feel of a song. I'm even considering adding it to my DJing laptop, for some afterparty/during the break fun for myself and people in the crowd. The different modes really add to my enjoyment, as I can do everything from a soothing ride to an intense, fast, strategic rush, depending on mood and the song itself. Probably the best $10 I've spent on a game in a while. If you can find a friend, try Double Vision, it's a lot of fun (but it'll fry your brain if you try it on your own).

I can't see myself playing Audiosurf much in the future, but hey for $10, it was well worth it. And it's probably something I'll always fire up occasionally for years to come. Just to try out a new favorite song.

PoderOmega wrote:
Results vary; some players may find every track to be stultifyingly boring, because they have no taste in music and are lame.

This was my experience, and I tried four very different (and intense) songs. Maybe there was a setting that makes it more sensitive, but the variation was pretty bland. I'm not a big puzzle game fan so the demo was fun but not enough for me to buy it.

If you ever want to give it another try, I'd suggest songs with varying levels of intensity. Such as old school Metallica (Battery works great) and Pink Floyd (Us and Them). So, it's not about how intense the song is overall, but rather how much the intensity changes through out the song. Audiosurf really picks up on that.

Assuming you guys have used songs ripped from CDs as your main music for this thing, what format and bitrate is the best? I've been ripping most of my pop/rock/punk/alternative stuff (basically everything but classical/baroque/romantic) to .mp3 at 256 kbps.

I tried the game and was tempted to buy it for the low asking price..
but in the end, it didn't do that much for me. And the choice is easy
between this game and the others I have and still want.
I can see the appeal for some though, just not for me.

I didn't try out the demo when it was released a while back because of the pain in the ass of getting through fileplanet or whereever, but now that I can grab it on steam I did so. Absolutely love it. It combines my overzealous love of match-three games with my fanatical obsession with listening to my music.

Easily worth $10 (or more) to someone with my tastes. I wouldn't mind seeing a port to XBL or a handheld, either. Also, I'm hoping for a scrobbler plug-in

creatureparade wrote:

I would love to give this a try. I plan to dominate the Massive Attack and Portishead boards.

Prepare for some stiff competition...

Papageno wrote:

Assuming you guys have used songs ripped from CDs as your main music for this thing, what format and bitrate is the best? I've been ripping most of my pop/rock/punk/alternative stuff (basically everything but classical/baroque/romantic) to .mp3 at 256 kbps.

I don't think the bitrate has too much of an effect. Not so much as the actual rhythm, tempo, octaves, chords, etc. In the demo, I played a lot of Against Me!, Lagwagon, Bad Religion, and NoFX; most of the bitrates are at 160-192, some at 256. I even played "Pints of Guinness Make You Strong", the acoustic and electric versions. Bit rates are different, but the races seemed more effected by the beats, and everything else previously mentioned more than anything else. Although I'm sure if you played something at a really low bitrate (like an internet song sample) there'd be a noticeable difference...

I have a problem. I want to buy Audiosurf, but I am finding sketchy info on supported files. I do not have a single MP3. Most of my collection is flac and the rest is m4a. Can I play these files in the game?

m4a is good (that's otherwise known as aac, right, the default iTunes ripping format?). I don't know what flac is, but according to the FAQ on the www.audio-surf.com page, it does indeed support that format. However, if the .aac/.m4a files are tracks with DRM from the iTunes store, they have to be "un-drm'd" first by burning them to a CD and then putting them back onto your computer. Yeah, it's a bitch. Yet another reason DRM sucks.

On m4a, the rule of thumb is, if you just ripped it from a CD with iTunes, you're fine. If you bought it from the iTunes store, Audiosurf can't play it.

On bitrates, the rule of thumb is that you don't talk about bitrates unless you want some guy to tell you he only listens to wax cylinders and everyone who doesn't may as well stuff their ears with manure.

.m4a files should be fine. (Generally ripped with iTunes)

.m4p files not so much. (I've only ever seen them as purchased tracks through the iTunes store)

Nyles wrote:

On bitrates, the rule of thumb is that you don't talk about bitrates unless you want some guy to tell you he only listens to wax cylinders and everyone who doesn't may as well stuff their ears with manure.

Come on Nyles, we all know the only way to listen to the classics is to go back in time, capture the audio waves in a special sealed bottle, and open it in an orchestral hall for listening. Replay is a bitch though.

Nyles wrote:

On m4a, the rule of thumb is, if you just ripped it from a CD with iTunes, you're fine. If you bought it from the iTunes store, Audiosurf can't play it.

It can't play any DRM'd music - wma with DRM is out as well. Can't really blame this on the Audiosurf guys, either - I can't play m4p on anything but iTunes or an iPod.

LilCodger wrote:

Come on Nyles, we all know the only way to listen to the classics is to go back in time, capture the audio waves in a special sealed bottle, and open it in an orchestral hall for listening. Replay is a bitch though. ;)

And then you drive a car through the hall and call it Analogsurf.

I've caught all degrees of hell for owning a Zune and being a subscriber to Marketplace for my source of music, but I stick with it. When my swiped internet goes down and I can't sign in to listen to my music offline I shrug it off. When someone says "wow I love this song! Can you make me a copy?" I shake my head since I only have rights to listen. I'm getting sick of trying to be a legit online music listener. Before when I hopped on "X" site to download free music with minimal risk of being caught I never had the issue of using the music I had found to play, copy, burn anyway I saw fit.
Audiosurf is so much fun. I really enjoy that I can hop in it for a few minutes before work and feel like I'm still a gamer with a time consuming job. Now my so called friends at Marketplace want to keep me from enjoying my rented music while i play Audiosurf. I understand why it wont work. I understand why it can't work. I don't understand why I continue to throw money into something I truly believe is a more honest way to download music yet my hands are tied and bound so many places.
I now find myself having to download music from alternate sources. Some of which are not pretty. I really thought I had turned a new leaf when I paid for my first album through marketplace. Now I'm back to old habits.
I wasn't sure if this was the place for this rant, but I opened the thread wanting to rave about Audiosurf. Now I feel I'm bashing on DRM more. So in closing "Whooo Audiosurf!"

I really liked the idea of AudioSurf, but gave up on it after the Steam-downloaded demo caused a system reboot one minute into the second part of the tutorial.

With some effort I could probably figure out what's causing the crash and suppress it, but for a casual title like this I can't imagine bothering.

Hans

As far as an alternate source of music, don't discount Amazon's .mp3 store. A minimum 256 kbps variable bit rate, and NO DRM, baby. Also cheaper than iTunes. Not everyone is selling through them yet though (no U2 yet, aargh), but many many are. Otherwise I hope you have a good used CD store near you (in Portland OR we have Everyday Music, which is awesome).

I bought it last night, and stayed up way too late seeing what different songs played like. I'm thinking that different songs play better with different characters, so a song you love, may result in a sucky track for one or more play types.

The only issue I had was that it kept telling me the demo was over and to buy the game after I already bought it. Turns out that it happened to lots of other people too. To get it to work right you have to exit and restart Steam. Not much of a hassle, but it sounded like it happens enough to warrant some sort of notification when you first buy/install it. So far I've wondered which out of the dozens of songs I've heard on the radio so far today will result in neat tracks. Definately worth the $10, even if you don't plan to use it that often.

I am not completely blown away by the game, it is just waving the mouse back and forth, but it can be fun on the right songs. I played [/i]still alive[i] of course and then Stairway to Heaven and Under the Bridge. I really liked these slow songs a lot better.

It's funny because Audio Surf, so totally reminds me of Activision's Masters of the Lamp.

I played the Beta and it was fun, I may part with 10-spot now that it's released.

It's weird getting an email months after setting a high score saying someone beat your score. I thought I picked some obscure songs.