Tuesday, November 9, 2010

This Week on Audiosurf Radio: Pinch-Hitting Edition

Craig’s tubes have been tied this week, meaning that you stoic Audiosurfers are going to have to put up with a shortish post by me instead of tracking his slow descent into techno-induced madness. Don’t worry – he’ll be back next week.

Because we haven’t in awhile, let me recap Audiosurf for all of the non-gamers and gamers-who-haven’t-ever-heard-of-Audiosurf-for-some-reason in our audience: Audiosurf will take any song on your computer and turn it into a shiny rollercoaster track– this track has physical peaks and valleys based on the way your song sounds, its tempo, where the instruments are in the mix, and so on.

Along this track are myriad colored blocks, each worth a different number of points based on their rarity – blue and purple blocks are worth fewer points but are more plentiful, while yellow and red blocks are more scarce but net larger payoffs. You steer your vehicle over the blocks as the song plays, and the more blocks of the same color you pick up and match, the more points you get. For the casual player, Audiosurf serves as a trippy interactive equalizer. For the die-hard, it can be a breakneck ride that leaves your vision blurred and your palms sweaty. It’s whatever you make of it, really.

Each week, the game’s purveyors hand-pick three or four tracks to serve up to players via the game’s built-in “Audiosurf Radio” – hence, this feature, where we dissect each song to tell you where to find the best rides. Still with me? Good! Onward!

This week’s three Radio tracks all come courtesy of trance artist Jonathan Araldi, who has a super-French Jamendo page you can check out if you’re into it.


If someone asked me “have you heard ‘Transmission’ by Jonathan Araldi?” I would be all like “oh yeah, it’s the boss fight music punctuated by super earnest new-age piano riffs.”

Ominous uphill climbs beget relentlessly in-your-face downhill rushes – you can barely see three blocks ahead because the traffic is all rushing straight at your face. Like a lot of trance music, it’s not bad to listen to, especially when it’s playing in the background, but it doesn’t really stick with you after you’re done listening to it. Someone’s playing some new-age piano riffs pretty earnestly. Only vigilant players will get the Clean Finish bonus when they play this song – it ends right at the bottom of a harsh slope.

Purity Nation

First, first, I wouldn’t name a song “Purity Nation.” It just doesn’t seem like a prudent phrase.

This track makes heavy use of the omnipresent “uhn-tss uhn-tss uhn-tss” thumping endemic to techo music, which makes the track undulate like a shaken beach towel. This rhythm defines the first third or so of the song. The rest of it, as you can see below, is more downhill insanity, punctuated by tiny uphill portions that give you just enough time to wonder “what the hell just happened?”

Sky Blue Deep and Sun Orange

This one starts promisingly, with a jaunty beat that is appreciably different from the rides that the other Araldi pieces offer. A couple of minutes in, though, comes that long, uphill curve you see above. This section of track is virtually bereft of blocks, and it neatly sucks the momentum out of the ride.

The rest of the song is another breakneck downhill tumble, but without the reprieves occasionally offered by “Transmission” and “Purity Nation.” The trance music is a double-edged sword – on the one hand, I thought that I was bored by the constant, unchanging barrage of 32nd notes, but on the other hand, I was genuinely surprised when the song ended. I must have fallen into quite the trance!

Author’s Note

All songs were played on the Pro difficulty using the Eraser character. Audiosurf is available through Steam or through the game’s Web site for $9.99.