‘Audiosurf’ an amazing game at the right price

Owen Sound Sun Times (On)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Imagine “Tetris” on a racetrack and the racetrack is the fretboard from “Guitar Hero.” That’s essentially “Audiosurf.”

One of the finalists in the Independent Games Festival, this game is amazing.

It’s also just $10.

For each song, “Audiosurf” has a racetrack where your own little spaceship zips along at a set speed. You use the mouse or keyboard to change lanes to collide with and collect coloured blocks that appear with the rhythm of the song.

That’s the “Guitar Hero”-esque part.

“Audiosurf” uses your own music for the soundtrack. That’s the best part. The game can take any MP3 song from iTunes or from an audio CD and turn it into a track for the game. This is really what sells “Audiosurf.”

As you hit the blocks they accumulate at the bottom of the screen in three columns. If you match three or more blocks they disappear, giving you points. The more blocks you get at once, the more points you get.

That’s the Tetris part.

Depending on the difficulty, the blocks are one colour, so collecting them is the challenge, or three colours, so you have to manoeuvre your spaceship carefully to get combos, or the columns fill up and you lose points.

The “Audiosurf” presentation is great.

Every nuance of the songs is somehow picked up by the game. As you race along every bit of the song is reproduced in little bumps in the track, mellow parts are uphill, intense parts are downhill and blocks appear exactly when they should. The programming at work is impressive.

You can predict what kind of track you’ll get; pick a slow acoustic song and you’ll get a nice mellow ride, pick death metal and you’ll go fast and furious. It’s fun.

The rest of the game holds up very well to the impressive track building software. There are about 12 spaceships to race within three difficulties (and they get HARD!) Some have special abilities like the ability to store a block for later use, or the ability to shuffle all the blocks you have in your columns to get matches. They all feel like they’re useful; none of the ships seem pointless, or tacked-on.

The last great thing about “Audiosurf” is that all your progress is ranked. Every time you play a song the game references the track name with an online database and shows you top scores for that song, from other players. Pick a song like “Whole Lotta Love” and there’ll be lots of people to compete with, but pick a song by Genghis Tron or Discordance Axis and you’ll probably be the only one on the list. I was.

“Audiosurf” is available through Steam (www.steampowered.com) as a direct download for $9.95 and a free demo, which lets you play four of your own songs, is available at http://www.audio-surf.com/

“Audiosurf” is a steal at that price. Hours of fun.

point-and-click genre back

A sudden, welcome resurgence in point-and-click adventure games has piqued my renewed interest in “Day of the Tentacle,” an old favourite point-and-click adventure game from 1993. The point-and-click genre was pretty much clinically dead before new games started popping up on many consoles, which also gave new life to some old ones.

I beat “Day of the Tentacle” for the first time just recently.

The game stands up remarkably well today. You control a trio of characters stuck in three different times, all trying to save the world from a mutant tentacle bent on world domination. Every character is completely voiced over and the voice acting is all very good. The game is very cartoony and still stylish today, with great dialogue.

“Day of The Tentacle” is hilarious and the puzzles are definitely not easy.

“Sam & Max,” contemporaries of “Day of the Tentacle”, were recently resurrected episodically by Telltale Games and are now on the third episode of the second season, the ninth episode so far.

“Phoenix Wright,” a courtroom adventure game for the DS has had four iterations released in Japan, all of them also released in North America. The Wii offers a few, most notably “Zak & Wiki.”

It’s understandable these genres would be embraced on the DS and Wii, since the control scheme is so suitable. But I have no idea why there’s new overall interest in the genre. I just know I’m quite happy about it.

So, with all these new adventure games, I recommend you revisit the roots.

Enter ScummVM.

ScummVM is a free program available for everything from Windows, Mac and Linux, to the PSP and DS. My recent enjoyment of “Day of the Tentacle” was in fact on the DS.

Anyone possessing an R4 flash cart for their DS can use ScummVM to emulate all the old Lucasarts adventure games. Simply dump the game files onto the flash cart and go.

It works great and the touch screen interface is wonderful.

For anyone not having a DS flash cart, the Windows/Mac/Linux version is great too. It makes all the music and sound effects work and even polishes up the graphics a bit.

You can learn all about, and download ScummVM at http://www.scummvm. org/

Calen Henry is a fourth-year student of Japanese studies and multimedia at McMaster University. He grew up in Owen Sound, has been a gamer since childhood and is also interested in music and film.

© 2008 Osprey Media Group Inc. All rights reserved.

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