Audiosurf garnered quite a lot of attention when it was released in February 2008. Reviewers loved it (it has a metacritic score of 85), and it won two IGF awards that year. I noticed the coverage, but as someone who plays mostly RPGs, strategy games and FPSs, I couldn’t see space in my collection for an apparently simple rhythm game. However, I’m as big a bargain fan as any man, so when I saw it on sale on Steam for an incredibly low price last year I thought it had to be worth a try. Thus began the addiction.
Maybe ‘addiction’ is an exaggeration, but Audiosurf is certainly a compelling game. Once I figured out the system of scoring and bonuses, I started climbing my way up the leaderboards of certain songs (each song has a leaderboard for each of the three difficulties: Casual, Pro, and Elite). As a fan of much obscure music, I found myself competing at times with only a few other people.
Showing the persistence of someone who has gone through the stage of repeatedly dying, and displaying terrible KDRs in Counter-Strike, I was able to pull myself to the tops of some leaderboards. I was gripped by the sort of high score fever rarely seen since the demise of the arcade. Casual became easy. Pro was a bit more challenging, but I thirsted for more. I turned to Elite.
I should point out that I have mostly been playing the ‘mono’ game modes. There are a range of modes in the game, which basically boil down to hitting coloured blocks as they scroll down the screen, using your little spaceship and moving it left and right. In mono, you hit the colourful blocks and avoid the grey blocks. This is the simplest of the many many; but is not to be underestimated. As you raise the difficulty level, the track flies by at an ever increasing speed, and the concentration of blocks is hugely increased. To stand any chance of a high score in mono you need the ‘Stealth’ bonus. This is gained by gaining at least 30% of your score without hitting any grey blocks. This becomes harder as the song you play becomes longer as it’s far easier to focus on dodging grey squares for a minute than it is for three. This is where the relationship between Audiosurf and Counter-Strike comes in.
Good reflexes are absolutely vital to stand any chance at getting the Stealth bonus. In a fraction of a second you need to spot the opening between grey blocks and move your mouse the right amount at the right time (or you might overshoot and hit a grey in another lane). This employs the same reflexes as those needed in Counter-Strike. If someone jumps out from behind a corner; you need to realise what’s going on, aim at their head and shoot before they do the same to you. As you play a song multiple times, you become familiar with its track. This is similar to getting used to a map in Counter-Strike (or any online FPS for that matter). With the combination of a growing familiarity and the development instinctive reflexes, you’ve got a good start for doing well at either game.
And that’s how Audiosurf made me better at Counter-Strike. For those less masochistic than myself, Audiosurf can be a highly relaxing experience. I recommend Blue Ȍyster Cult’s ‘Screams’ on Casual mono for a relaxing, smooth ride. After that, see if you can take me off the top spot of Optimus Rhyme’s ‘Reboot’ for a bit more of a challenge. Then launch Counter-Strike: Source and amaze your friends as you top your team!
- Jimi Cullen