AudioSurf 1 & 2
Back in the early 2000’s, I spent the night at a friend’s house and watched as he played Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) on his Playstation 2. I remember seeing the scrolling arrows mixed with the synthesized music and became enthralled at the idea. I started playing it with him and found that while I wasn’t a good dancer, I did have excellent hand-eye coordination. I’ve always been a musician in my life so rhythm and syncopation were always natural aspects of my abilities. I underestimated how much fun a music and rhythm video game would be. Fast forward many years later after hundreds of hours of DDR, Rock Band, and Osu, and I found a small gem called AudioSurf. AudioSurf mixes music and rhythm with puzzle games. You control some kind of a vehicle, usually a rocket ship looking artifice while it moves along an infinite track full of twists, turns, loop the loops, and massive hills. You can choose songs that have been uploaded to the AudioSurf servers or upload your own music. The game comes with several modes that include gathering colored blocks along the track in an attempt to score certain points. There are difficult modes and easier modes for those that just want to enjoy the rhythms and visuals of the game without too much of a challenge. You can even just play the music and let your rocket ship run along the track without collecting anything. The track generates based on the type of music you’re listening to and everything about the movement of the ship and the way the track looks and moves changes based on the drum track, melody, harmony, beats, and more. It’s a visually stunning game that lets you enjoy your music in a very visual way. It reminds me of the flashing lights in Mr. Holland’s Opus when his deaf son is able to enjoy the music without hearing it. The second game adds in more gamemodes, updated visuals, and hours of fun for those that love music and rhythm games. I can never play this game for hours on end, but I find myself logging in every now and then just to gain an hour of enjoyment out of a visually stunning musical experience.
AudioSurf 1 & 2 was developed by Dylan Fitterer and is available on PC and Zune HD.
Crypt of the NecroDancer
Sticking with the idea of music and rhythm games, a little gem I discovered a few years ago still brings me small amounts of unexpected joy. In my Hades review, I talked about my dislike of roguelike games. I don’t completely hate them, but I usually stray away from them and tend to enjoy other genres more. However, Crypt of the NecroDancer was a discovery of roguelike games unlike any other I had played up to that point. Crypt of the NecroDancer is a top-down, 2D roguelike game that has you control a character as he/she moves through procedurally generated dungeon levels. Unlike other games like this, your character can only move or attack if it is done on the beat of whatever song is playing. The enemies do the same, continually moving to the beat of the music. Your score and success in the game is highly dependent on your ability to move your character with the rhythm of the song. You’ll collect different items, like in any roguelike, throughout your delve of the dungeons that help you succeed. Armor, weapons, treasure, and more are all available for gathering as you explore the dungeons while rhythmically tapping your keyboard to the beat of the songs. One of the best parts of the game is that it allows you to use a dance pad like DDR to control the character. It brings back so many memories of 20 years ago when I played DDR in my friend’s living room. You unlock new characters, new items, and new levels by continuing to play (just like any roguelike game) but the thing that stands out the most in Crypt of the NecroDancer is the ability to use music and intonation as your cues rather than your ability to aim and click quickly with a mouse. It’s a beautiful retro, nostalgic feeling of a game, and I love that the music and rhythm genre was able to cohesively work with another genre so seamlessly.
Crypt of the NecroDancer was developed by Brace Yourself Games and is available on PC, Mac, Playstation 4, Xbox One, iOS/Android, and Nintendo Switch.
Okay, okay, I know. Most people have already heard of this game. In fact, most people have played this game on their phones for hours and hours of self-loathing, excruciating fun. It’s a very simple game that involves a small icon that moves across the screen in side-scrolling fashion while some kind of music plays. You must click on the screen when the icon comes to an obstacle in an attempt to jump over the obstacle while keeping time with the rhythm and music. The objective of the game is a simple one: get to the end of the level. It sounds far easier than you think as the levels becoming increasingly more difficult as you progress through the game. Rather than just jumping through levels, you’ll find other obstacles pop up that send you through portals. These portals change key aspects of the mechanics making it so that you might find yourself in a rocket ship where you have to keep the ship in midair as it flies. You might also change the gravity of the level so that you’re on the ceiling and have to jump downwards to go over obstacles. Your icon might change sizes or shape or you might only be able to move diagonally. It’s a frustrating game because if you crash into an obstacle or miss a jump, you have to start all the way back at the beginning of the level, regardless of how far you progressed. The game originally came out with 21 official levels but a map editor allows players to create their own levels for hours and hours of more masochistic fun. I love and hate this game, but I always seem to go back to it on my phone when I need to kill a few minutes.
Geometry Dash was developed by Robert Topala and is available on iOS/Android, PC, Mac, and Windows Phone.
The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor
Given the rise of mobile games where you play a Match 3 game fused with RPG or fantasy battle themes, it’s only appropriate that the rhythm and music genre hopped on board as well. The Metronomicon fuses together elements of music and rhythm games with RPG’s in a way that I actually found hilariously fun. You take a party of heroes on a journey through epic battles where you control the flow of combat by hitting notes at the correct time on a music track. It plays and feels like Rock Band, DDR, or Osu but instead of just being music and tapping buttons, you control a party of four heroes as they do battle against hordes of enemies. The styles of music dictate the kinds of abilities that you can employ. You have to switch between different tracks of music in an instant to heal your party or cast powerful magic at the enemy. It’s hard to explain too much about the game given that I haven’t played it nearly as much as the others listed above in this post, but I can tell you that I’ve greatly enjoyed my few hours with the game and can’t wait to delve more into the musical battles that take place. It might seem weird or lame, but there is a certain enjoyment I get out of pretending I’m Scott Pilgrim locked in a bass battle and using my music to cast spells and defeat the enemy.
The Metronomicon: Slay the Dance Floor was developed by Puuba and is available on PC, Mac, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.