Tuesday, January 19, 2010

This Week on Audiosurf Radio - Happy Birthday Young French Buck Edition

The little guy on the right is Asterix.  He's sort of like France's Mickey Mouse. What were you doing when you turned 16?  It might have been any number of things, depending on what generation you belong to.  Baby Boomers might have cut school, stolen their parents’ car, and road-tripped to Woodstock.  Those of you from Generation Jones (weird name, I know) might’ve gone to see Star Wars for the eighth time.  I wasn’t so adventurous.  I can’t recall exactly what I was doing, but it most likely involved high-school band/drama rehearsal and working a shift at my after-school retail gig.

DJ Fire-Black, a young DJ from Ambillou, France, turns 16 years-old today.  And he’s got his own techno music debuting on a successful indie music game.  Kudos and bon anniversaire!  Like last week, there are only three songs, so I’ll be reviewing them all.  Luckily, each lasts a meaty six minutes, with “Last Thing” topping out a eight and a half. 

He’s only got a few years experience, but he’s more than competent when it comes to programming beats.  But can a French teen rival some of the bigger DJs Audiosurf’s landed in the past? 

The Songs

Riding “Near Death,” I felt the most competent I’ve felt in a long time riding a track with such heavy traffic.  Pieces seemed to fall into place as I needed them.  Colors cleared out just in time to make room for bigger, longer combos.  It was sort of like the middle of a great round of Tetris: when there are enough blocks to constantly clear lines, but they’re pieces still falling at a leisurely piece.  In contrast to a lot of recent Radio selections, the ride never really cranks up the speed.  The big plummet to the finish is steep and features a lot of traffic, but it’s not whiplash-inducing.  Away from the keyboard, I suppose you could dance to this.  But it’d be just as easy to use it for background music when working or writing a paper.  Oh, and the track’s general ease means there’s a feeding frenzy on the scoreboards, with Elite scores closing in on the rare 1 million mark.  Some people are way too good at this game.

“No More Silence” starts out extremely choppy – like, stop-motion choppy.  But as the bass pulse speeds up, things start to level out until you’re cruising along to standard techno strobe loops.  I’m talking about the pulsating pseudo-strings that regularly accompany smoke-filled, strobe-lit discotheques.  The individual parts (the clomping beat, the fast-paced stutter of the melody) are by-the-book in terms of techno, but the overall composition is more varied than “Near Death.”  Accordingly, the traffic is a tad more complicated.  Still, there’s an undercurrent of ease to the ride.  An overwhelming sense of oneness with the unique act of controlling a vehicle avatar down a TRON-like road made of sound.  It shows in the comments, too.  One Audiosurf user praised “No More Silence” as “grade A, tried and true Audiosurfing.”  Plus, the mix of plentiful traffic with a lower difficulty allows all the expert surfers to try it out on Double Vision Elite (Audiosurf’s difficult two-player mode) by themselves.  That’s a brand of crazy I don’t subscribe to, but you should definitely play this song even if you’re riding on Casual.

I’d like to believe the title “Last Thing” is a pun.  I hope it’s a pun on how many times this song ends because it’s like trying to end a conversation with someone who’s constantly saying, “Oh, and one last thing…”  Or, while it is no way similar in tone, it’s like the end of Return of the King – or should I say ‘ends’.  Halfway through, the track bottomed out with a great splash that, on a shorter song, would’ve made a perfect ending.  But no.  So I geared myself up for a few more phrases, really digging the build up to what would surely be the end  Again, no.  I still had least another two minutes to go before I finally reached the real end, managing to screw up a Clean Finish bonus on top of it all.  Of the three, “Last Thing” is the weakest musically, relying too heavily on a single oompah downbeat.  And the permutations of the main loop are so subtle that, six minutes in, it’s impossible to tell if the song didn’t always sound that way.  It’s like that day or two in the middle of a bout with the flu where you forget what it’s like to be healthy.

Author’s Note

All songs were played on the Pro difficulty twice using the Eraser and Vegas characters.  I had a hard time focusing during the second time through “Last Thing.”  The hypnotic beat became the auditory equivalent of a glass of warm milk.  Also, some of the insane scores on “Last Thing” may have been the result of hacked gameplay, so don’t be too scared by those million-point triumphs.  Give it your best, if you dare.