A couple of nights ago I ventured back to Steam – Valve’s online digital content delivery system – for the first time since I completed Half Life 2: Episode One a year or two ago. At first, I was shocked at the range of titles you can buy – anything from Bioshock to Warhammer 40K; RPGs to insane psychedelic puzzle-action games.
And in that last category I found a gem: Audiosurf.
The idea is simple: hover along a track with three lanes and collect coloured blocks by flying into them. Collect three or more blocks of the same colour and you’ll score points.
Hotter colours (red and yellow) score more than cold colours (blue and purple). And there are powerups scattered along the route which have various helpful effects, from painting all of your accumulated blocks one colour (thus bagging you a larger bonus), to sorting your colours out into neat stacks.
The harder the difficulty setting, the faster blocks fly at you and the trickier it is to make stacks. At some of the harder levels it gets to the point where it’s as much about your reaction speed as planning ahead. But it’s still ludicrously colourful fun.
So where does the “audio” come in?
Audiosurf’s tracks and environment are generated from any digital music file you’ve got on your system. Essentially, it reacts to whatever song you throw at it. The tempo and feel of the song you select determines how the game plays out.
At it’s most basic level, this means a fast, upbeat song will beget a frantic downhill track, with loads of colours and hazards, while a mellow, acoustic number produces a correspondingly chilled uphill track, with fewer blocks.
Of course, there’s a range of characters to choose from, all of which have different abilities. But that – in a nutshell – is what £6.50 ($9.99 + VAT) of your hard-earned crust will buy you: a virtually limitless supply of lo-fi puzzling-action goodness accompanied by great music (assuming you actually like the stuff you’ve got on your hard drive). And it’s maddeningly addictive.
Even better: the latest update incorporates Last.fm scrobbling of all tracks played, so you can share your music while gaming. Perfect!
There’s a taster below if you’re not sure. Some lunatic attempts a run through of DragonForce: Through the Fire and Flames (remember them?) using the Mono game mode. Rock symbols at the ready: \m/