Sunday, June 8, 2008

Pow-Pow-Power Wheels

Two things that are likely to happen tomorrow: I'll be less interested in spending my free-time playing computer and video games, and I'll be unable to write about the games I am playing. As my last hurrah, here are two recommendations. Both of these games are available for free, but you'll first have to download and register Steam. Obnoxious, but hey! Free games!

The first is called Audiosurf. I downloaded the demo a few months ago, which let me play the game three times, then told me I'd have to pay for the full version to play more. I opened the game again the other day and was surprised to find that I was able continue playing. I'm not sure if this was some sort of glitch or if the game's creators have decided to be generous. The game's site gives the option to download the demo or pay $10 for the full game. I say get the demo - if you're lucky, you'll get the whole thing for free. If not, no loss, and you might find that the game is worth the low price.

Judged solely by the gameplay mechanics, Audiosurf is fairly lame. You guide a rocket ship-like thing down a highway and collect or avoid different blocks. You move left and right through the lanes in the road, with no control over the rocket's speed. There are several game-modes, but I only like one (Mono). So why can't I stop playing it? Audio surf is less of a game and more of an interactive way to experience music. Just pick any song and the game will use some algorithm (algorhythm?) to generate a roller coaster-y level that follows the sound of the music, complete with trippy bursts of visual flourish. It's the rare type of game that puts me into a hypnotic trance.

Of course, the amount of fun you'll have depends entirely on the music you choose. The game comes with the "Orange Box" soundtrack, but you'll have be much better off if you have a decent collection of tunes on your computer. So far I've found the most success with the Beatles and System of a Down. Fast, punky rock and mellow psychedelic music have provided some awesome results. Oh, and be sure to crank some Ace of Base. Rhythm games were made for dance music. Funk seems like it would be good, but is the beat is too erratic, it can be irritating. Disco is another mixed genre - "Don't Leave Me This Way"? Groovy. "Stayin' Alive", on the other hand, made me so sea-sick I had to quit playing.

The game was made to be played with a mouse or keyboard (do not use the keyboard; it's horrible), but I've rigged a more interesting control scheme.Playing Trackmania Nations with a steering wheel makes a bit more sense. That's right, this a car racing game. Yippee!
Ordinarily, I'm not a big fan of driving games. What makes this such a rad racer? Well, for starters, you have the option of playing......IN 3-D!!
But even if you don't have a pair of the ol' red & cyans, this game is pretty unique. The level-design is positively insane. You dodge obstacles, speed through loop-de-loops, and catch more air than them Duke boys. It's a racing game, but coming in first place is often less of a concern than making it to the finish line.

The controls are fantastically simple (if you're using a keyboard, you'll only need the arrow keys), but the challenge many tracks can be daunting. The game comes with dozens of tracks of increasing difficulty. There's also an tool that allows you to build your own course, which is one of the best editors I've ever seen in any game. Anyone can build a track, and if you play online, you'll be on user made levels. It's cool, because you'll find a whole collection of brand new courses every time you play, but it comes at a price. The only rule for a track to be eligible for online play is that is has to be possible to reach the finish line. Most players are apparently most interested in pushing the limits of "possible." I manage to finish about one in four races online. Trackmania is fun, but it's crazy-hard.

Both of these games, by the way, are very pretty. If you happen to have purchased a new computer in the last week, downloading these games would be an excellent way to see what your fancy-pants machine can do.

Did you make it all the way through that? I know most, if not all, of you don't have the slightest desire to read about computer games. Thanks for indulging me. And if you skipped ahead, what is wrong with you? I take one day to write about something that interests me and you scroll through it. Wow, real polite. Hey, you don't know - I might have snuck some clever jokes in there that you would have enjoyed, but you see "computer games" and start spinning that little clicky wheel in the middle of your mouse. I made a Dukes of Hazard reference, I'll have you know, and I don't think that's ever going to happen again. But forget it. Who needs you anyway? Jerk.


Jake said...

Aw, I forgot about new wave. New wave is really nice.

Jake said...

Also, Aqua: good. Rap, bad.