Tuesday, December 16, 2008

This Week on Audiosurf Radio - 12/16

So if you've got Steam, you've probably heard of Audiosurf. And if you like music, you probably bought Audiosurf.

Over the years I've played numerous music games, but one of the most unique remains a Japanese PSX title called Vib Ribbon I found years ago. It was super Japanese before Katamari came along, and it did the "Play any song you want"before anybody had even dreamed of Audiosurf. So when I finally got my hands on Dylan Fitterer's rhythm-puzzler off Steam, I fell for the infinite possibilities all over again.

However, one of the game's features I've long been neglecting is the Audiosurf Radio function. Each week, Fitterer uploads a few indie tracks to the servers, allowing players to download the songs free of charge. While a number of artists (from Rick Astley to Dragonforce) are mainstays on the Most Played board, these weekly radio tunes provide new challenges that the whole community can access easily.

Here are my picks from this week's Audiosurf Radio: selections from Audiosurf vet Jack Conte's albums VideoSongs Volume I and Sleep In Color.
Lonely Ghost - Time: 2:54 Traffic: 206 This is the most straightforwardly pop/rock of the Conte selections. There's a driving groove that feels more like a product of the guitar than the percussion, which provides a simple backbeat/hi-hat texture for the track with minimal fills. It's the perfect length for an Audiosurf track you haven't heard before: it stays fresh for the three minutes without the track resorting to ungodly steepness to keep you on your toes.

Like A Match - Time: 3:11 Traffic 176 This track is a good example of his style translating well to Audiosurf. It epitomizes Conte's term for his music: Electronic Acoustica. In many of the tracks, he blends rock guitar with electronic drums and outside-the-box instruments such as glockenspiel, melodica, and accordion. His use of texture is a refreshing chance to watch your car sync up with the actual music, since many pop tracks make it hard to tell when the bricks are aligning with anything other than drums.

Audiosurf Marathon (Hollywood Endings, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Now That's Sacred) - Time 8:34 Traffic 461. Play this song. The Audiosurf load screen says this thing has "Extra Traffic." They aren't kidding in the slightest. The song's got a bit more of an electronic/techno beat to it, with quickfire drums under some ambient instrumentation. For whatever reason (or maybe because the programmer wanted it this way), this results in long stretches of like-colored blocks, almost like wholes notes and half notes, that quickly fill up your screen. This presents a challenge when paints or block dumps are mixed in. Or when whites sneak into the long stretches and you have to figure out how to lose them. I've never played a song with so much traffic, at least not with such a unique block arrangement. It's not normal Audiosurf, and I think it would be downright nasty to play on Mono. In fact, I'm going to go test that theory right now.

Other selections: Conte's other songs Carousel Waltz and Flavors are fine, but neither catchy enough musically or interesting enough gameplay-wise to warrant a revisit for me. Carousel Waltz is in three and has a creepy Tom Waits-ish vibe, but I found it an underwhelming ride.

Author's Note: All songs were played on Pro difficulty using the Eraser character.