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Why you should buy it: Looking for something new and unique on the PC? It doesn’t get more original than this.
Why you should rent it: If you’re not someone who likes music, this probably won’t do much for you.
9What is This?

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Written by: Filippo Dinolfo | Tags: AudioSurf, PC, BestGameEver

February 20,2008 – The PC gaming scene is largely dominated by a bevy of First-Person-Shooters, Real-Time-Strategy, and Sims games. So when a game comes along that has absolutely none of these elements one needs to stop and take a look at it. AudioSurf is just that sort of game. It combines elements from a racing game, elements from old-school puzzlers like Klax, and then attempts to show off its own unique party piece by generating every level based on the song you choose. While a few games in the past have tried this dynamic generation of levels, it’s not something that has been overdone. More to the point, even fewer have done it well.

What you do in AudioSurf seems pretty simple at first. You choose a character, then a song, and then attempt to match colored blocks that come down the highway by hitting them with your character. When you do this they take their place on a grid in the lower part of the screen. If three or more blocks of the same color are touching, they will disappear and score you a certain number of points. If you let any column of the playfield overflow with blocks they will all disappear but not earn you any points. You will also not be able to touch any incoming blocks for a few seconds, so letting your grid get too full of scattered colors is a bad idea. AudioSurf adds in many other elements based on the character that you’ve selected. Some characters have the ability to push blocks to one side. Others can erase blocks from the grid. Others allow you to control two characters at once. There are several to choose from, so it isn’t difficult to find one that suits your particular style. If you’re feeling really brave, you can turn on Ironmode. This mode is faster and if you over-fill a column you will fail the song. If you think you’ve mastered the game, this mode might change your mind. On the other hand, if you’d prefer to just relax and not have to bother with matching colors, the game offers a FreeRide mode. FreeRide allows you to just surf the song without worrying about making color clusters. Instead you’ll be encouraged to just check out the scenery and enjoy the music. Whichever way you choose to play it, AudioSurf is a lot of fun.

The layout of the levels, including where the blocks are placed, is generated after you select your song. The game does a very good job of figuring out what should go where. Mellow parts of a song will have the playfield scrolling uphill, while more intense parts will be running downhill. The higher scoring red and yellow blocks will also only appear during these more intense sections. Generating levels based on music is no small feat, and AudioSurf manages to do a very good job of consistently generating playable levels.

Visually AudioSurf is a decent looking game. It’s not about pushing hundreds of thousands of polygons, but rather about creating a stylish and distinct look. One very nice touch is the game’s sense of speed during intense sections of songs. Not only are you flying downhill but the camera comes in closer and swivels on the playfield, giving you a nice look at the blocks hurtling towards you. Where it falls off a bit is the overall UI. The menus are a little unintuitive, with things like Ironmode and Freeride being spaced far apart. You’d expect gameplay options to be in a centralized place, but in this case one is at the top of the screen and the other is a tiny checkbox at the bottom. Another small problem is the single click navigation of the music library. Most people are used to double clicking to navigate a file system, so this may throw a few people out there. These are just minor quirks though, but are fair points to mention.

AudioSurf is all about the music. This is evident in the way the game deals with in-game sound effects. There are very little of them to speak of at all. About the only thing you’ll hear are the sounds of your character hitting the incoming blocks and those blocks vanishing as you match them up. This means of course that the music takes center stage. The game ships with a few original songs to get you started. If you purchase the game from Steam you’ll also get The Orange Box soundtrack included with the game, so you can surf to Still Alive all you want. Of course you’ll want to play your own music, so the game supports a wide variety of audio formats to make surfing to your own tunes as easy as possible.

AudioSurf is very good value for money. It’s fun, fresh, and addicting. You get the game and The Orange Box soundtrack for $9.99. It’s hard to argue with that price.