And now for something completely random

During my “I hate mmorpg’s” period of the last few months (I need a “Blue Period” label for it, make it sound disgruntled and artsy or something), I played through Half-Life 2 again, prepping for an Orange Box purchase (which I haven’t done yet, it’s on my list!).

Firing up HL2 necessitated installing Steam again. I haven’t had Steam installed since I first played through HL2 a long time ago, and the service was still in its infancy. That’s my polite way of saying “God, get this thing off my computer”. I was pleasantly surprised when I opened Steam again.

First, Peggle Extreme was $10 on Steam. It’s damn near impossible to get a better deal on casual gaming goodness. My whole family plays Peggle, even my wife, who’s absolutely not a gamer. Second, the Steam service has matured, and I can see myself making quite a few game purchases that way in the future. Fuck Gamestop and their “shove the PC games onto two shelves with all the titles sideways and never re-sorted alphabetically because the employees are too busy pushing used console game trade-ins” bullshit. Oops, sorry, that was a little bitchy. Anyway, I like the Steam interface.

Last week, Steam popped up an advertisement for something called Audiosurf. I gave it a quick glance, thought it was cool that the game lets you choose music from your own computer to build your maps/tracks, but didn’t really think about buying it. After hearing a couple references to it on the 1up and GFW podcasts, and realizing it was only $10, I went ahead and downloaded it last night.

Gotta say, it’s a blast. Casual gaming goodness. It reminds me a bit of Guitar Hero, trying to hit colored blocks as they stream by you, except it’s a three-lane track instead of a fretboard, and you’re driving over the blocks trying to group colors instead of hitting notes to finish a song. The software analyzes the music you choose and creates the track layout and block placement based on the tempo, beat, and pitch of your song.

I played for four hours last night. On my train ride to work this morning, listening to music, I could close my eyes and see the track in front of me as the music swelled in my ears, colored blocks swarming toward me, darting from lane to lane trying to bunch ’em into colors. Not unlike the old Tetris phenomenon, when you’d lie down in your bed at night, close your eyes, and see a rainfall of colored shapes on the inside of your eyelids.

Besides being able to use your own music library, the other hook is that you can compare your score on a certain song against other users who have played the same song. There are also Steam achievements available, like Xbox Live achievements.

A bonus is the inclusion of the entire Orange Box soundtrack, including the wonderful “Still Alive” from Portal, both the game version and the (spoiler link if you haven’t finished Portal) Jonathan Coulton version. If you’re looking for a break from mmorpg’s, Audiosurf is definitely a great way to spend an evening goofing off with your favorite songs.

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