IGF Finalist: Audiosurf – “Ride Your Music”

January 25, 2008
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With the 10th annual Independent Games Festival right around the corner, one of the IGF finalists I’ve been playing a lot of lately is the bizarre puzzle-music-rythm-hybrid-game Audiosurf. Currently still in a beta phase, the game will be available for purchase online very shortly, but check out screenshots and videos of the game at its website now if the idea of racing a la F-Zero to your own music gets you blood pumping.

Audiosurf lets you select any song you’ve got, in a variety of formats (MP3, even OGG, etc.), then pre-processes the musical “track” for you into a sort of race course with a distinct geometrical shape – much like a roller coaster. Fast songs are going to have you racing faster as the track leads you downhill, while songs with many tempo changes are going to have you crawling uphill and then rushing back down multiple times until you finally reach the end of the course, and also the song level.

If you want to just sit back and relax while watching your chosen character cruise along, the game doesn’t really punish you for it, but the real gameplay is in the multi-colored blocks that you grab in color-specific groups of three or more to gain points. If you grab too many different colored blocks in a row, your ship will disappear for a short time, not allowing you to gain any points and so hurting your score.

Several different game modes offer a different and unique approach to the same gameplay, in a twist that reminded me of all of the refreshing new game modes in Tetris DS. And while playing your favorite song over and over again to top your own high score is great, the real fun comes into play when you create an account and are able to log-in and post your scores online with the game’s built-in leaderboards. You can even search for any song to see if someone out there has already played it with Audiosurf!

My favorite songs to play have been mostly techno songs, but almost everything results in an awesome gameplay experience that’s completely unique. From Portal’s “Still Alive” to Metallica to my 8-bit chiptune collection, Audiosurf charmed me with its amazing ability to make me feel like I was really playing my music in a way I never have before. So when the game comes out (probably February), do the growing rhythm-music game genre a favor by purchasing Audiosurf – it’s sure to be cheap, and as long as you don’t post your scores online, no one will know when you can’t help yourself but race along in digital bliss to some Kelly Clarkson or Hilary Duff.


Spotlight: Passage, “A Journey Through Time”

December 14, 2007

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Whether you’re an avid gamer who spends 20 hours a week on Xbox Live or the Playstation Network, or a casual gamer who gets plenty of excitement out a good game of Bookworm, you need to play Passage.

The latest game from Jason Rohrer, Passage was designed for the Kokoromi “Gamma 256″ contest which challenges independent game developers to create small, artistic games that defy video game normalcies and stand on their own as individual artistic achievements.

In all of these ways, Passage succeeds. Lasting only 5 minutes from start to finish and being constrained to a pixel-limit of 256×256, the game can definitely make an impact on the player the first time through. However, just as it may take several trips to the art museum to finally understand the message behind a sculpture, Passage may take several trips through the game for its meaning to hit home.

The artist, Jason Rohrer, is just as interesting and inspiring as his game. He has committed much of life to living vegan and with as small of an ecological footprint as possible, all while developing several freely distributed games, fascinating essays and other writings. He lives in Potsdam, New York with his spouse and child. Please check out his full list of works here.

If you enjoy Passage, you’ll probably enjoy at least a couple of the other entries in the Gamma 256 contest, which can all be found here.


Gamefly launches music service… kind of

December 6, 2007

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Yesterday Gamefly launched its new music service creatively named “Gamefly Tunes”. Gamefly subscribers now have access to an overwhelming selection of five pre-selected, DRM-free tracks to legally download each month for no extra fees other than their normal monthly bill. Non-subscribers aren’t left out completely, being able to download one of the songs for free. The first “track of the month” is the song “Get It” by RJD2, and the Gamefly Tunes VIP members lounge currently offers the remaining four tracks by OK Go, Little Brother, Shadows Fall, and Thievery Corporation.

While it’s nice to see Gamefly offering some added value to their paying customer’s subscriptions, I can’t help but think they could be putting the effort into working on current problems with the whole game-renting service. It never fails to aggravate me when I have a game in my game queue for a week or so, only to be shipped the third game on the list once they receive the title I sent in last.

With so many fantastic titles released over the last couple of months, Gamefly is the perfect service to be able to play all of the games I didn’t have time or money to spend on when they came out. However, with my queue so jammed with “low availability” and “medium availability” notices, it’s getting harder and harder to stomach the $22.99 per month.

Here’s hoping the next email Gamefly sends out to its subscribers is to inform them of a new shipment center for faster turnaround times, or a significant boost in the number of copies of new releases they have available for rent.

 


Fall Dashboard Update impressions

December 4, 2007

2007 Fall Dashboard Update

Today Microsoft’s anticipated 2007 Fall Dashboard Update was sent out to appreciative gamers all over the world. Here’s a quick rundown of the key features:

Xbox Originals

Easily the most publicized feature and announced back on November 13th, now Xbox Live users can buy and download full Xbox games to store on their hard drive for the not-so-low price of $15 (1200 MS Points). The games are direct ports and do not have any enhancements whatsoever, but some users will appreciate the convenience of not having to switch discs, and it also provides an easy way for budding and relatively new gamers to experience some classics from the previous generation of gaming. Stateside launch titles are Halo, Fuzion Frenzy, Psychonauts, Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex, Fable, and Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge.

Enhanced Parental Controls

Parents are now able to control exactly how much time household members are logging on the 360. Controllable in 15-minute increments, the amount of time allotted can be on a daily or weekly basis.

Social Networking

Xbox Live members are now able to expand their personal profile by entering bio information, which can be visible to only registered friends or all of Xbox Live. Also, new “Friends of Friends” features lets you look at the friends (you guessed it) of your friends. This can be disabled under system settings or on Xbox.com.

While these are all great new addictions to the system’s already robust feature-set, it’s two of the lesser-known features that are going to be the ones people will be appreciating the most as the hype dies down. First up, there’s the long-awaited option to change the Windows Live ID that your account is associated with. There aren’t really any consequences to changing your ID – your Microsoft Points follow you to your new ID! This is an extremely welcome update for anyone who uses the messenger functionality, or for anyone who had to drag out their five-year-old email address while setting up Xbox Live for the first time, and has since created a new Live ID for chatting. It should be noted, though, that this option should have been supported from the start.

Lastly, the 360 now has expanded video codec support including Divx and Xvid. While this comes off as gibberish for some, it’s probably the best news torrent junkies have heard in months. AVI files can now be played directly from an external memory supply, or streamed from a compatible networked PC.

A few other notable additions to the dashboard include the “Inside Xbox” RSS feed which although is not as annoying as the PS3’s ticker, is so far equally useless. Xbox Live Arcade now has Arcade “Hits” not unlike retail games’ Platinum Hits – five of Live Arcade’s best sellers are reduced in price by around $5.

While the Xbox Originals will appeal to a select few, most will probably either already own the games or recognize that you can find them in a local bargain bin or online for significantly cheaper than buying them over Live. Bring in the fact that almost all of the titles have known issues and can cause your entire console to crash and have to be restarted, I think you’re better off buying these classics in disc format for the time being. Besides, why pay $15 for Crimson Skies when less than 10 buys you the disk, case, and all original artwork?

All things considered, Microsoft didn’t leave much out. It’s a jam-packed update that doesn’t leave much to be desired; virtual-console-like game downloads, actually useful video playback capabilities, and extended capabilities of the already user-friendly Live networking. It makes you wonder – what will be in demand for next year’s Fall Update?


First post FTW!

December 1, 2007

Welcome to itsnotanaddiction.com! In the near future, this website will be home to many rants, raves and reviews of anything related closely enough to video games to be worth posting. Some of it will be timely, but I imagine the most regular postings will be thoughts on video games, video game consoles and their accessories that have been buried in most people’s closets or garages by now. That’s not necessarily because of a lack of other things to write about, but it also does not make this a nostalgic or old-school haven for strictly classics. I just personally feel that websites like joystiq.com already cover the news so very, very, very well that I don’t need to be copying their every move.

With this site, I’d like to bring something new to the world of video game journalism. I’d like to provide a dependable page with regular updates that can show readers a new side of a story, or a second opinion on that bargain-bin game they’ve passed over the last couple of times they were at GameStop because of that one bad review they read on it. I also want to point you in the direction of some older gems that you can still find on Ebay or Amazon for just a few bucks that are still well worth your time.

Check back regularly for updates, and if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send them to me in an email at dustin@itsnotanaddiction.com – they may end up on the site.