I offered to do the review for Auditorium HD because I’m a big fan of those nifty little games that tend to stretch outside the boundary of what we consider a video game to be. I’m talking about games like Flow and Flower. Auditorium HD fits solidly into that category, and it is most definitely a unique and meditative experience that will have you coming back for more.
The original game was released as a flash game way back in 2008. A year later, it was released for iOS devices then, finally, made its way to the PSN. The HD “remake” adds a slew of new levels, or set lists, along with more music to go along with them. The idea of Auditorium is rather hard to explain – you use these circular bumpers to reflect a beam of light and make it go into various bins that looks like equalizer bars from an audio system. By doing so, you produce different audio tracks that eventually combine together to create a symphony of sounds.
These bumpers that you can use only redirect the light in pre-defined directions, indicated by arrows on the bumper itself. However, you can position the bumper wherever you want on the screen, as well as adjust the size of it, which does various things to the beam of light. By adjusting the location and size of these bumpers, you have to bend, warp and recolor the light in different ways to get the right colored light into the right equalizer bins, thus producing the finished product. The bin must be continually filled with light until all the bins in one track are filled at the same time. If you interrupt the light flow to a particular bin, it empties itself and the audio related to that bin will fade.
This may sound complicated, but the concept is pretty simple. It’s the execution that will cause your head to hurt. At the most basic, this is a puzzle game – and a darn hard one at that. You’re given a few basic tutorial steps, then expected to continue on after that, learning as you go. It isn’t difficult to learn, but there is a lot of trial and error involved. The good thing here is that you can’t really “fail” a stage (or track), you just don’t complete that set list if you don’t finish the track. The nice thing here is, if you get stuck on one, you can hit Start and move on to the next track. Later on, you can come back to the one you had trouble with and perhaps you’ll have a better understanding of what you have to do.
As you progress, your mind will start to adjust to the things you can do with these bumpers and beams of light. Initially you’ll think that you need a bumper each time you want to send the beam of light in another direction. This line of thinking will eventually get you stuck. You’ll figure out before too long that, by adjusting the size and position of bumpers as respects that beam of light, you can sometimes split it and send it in two different directions. This technique is needed at some points.
You’ll also begin to be given various different types of “bumpers”, which control different aspects of the light, not just its trajectory. There’s one that energizes the light, speeding it up. Eventually you’ll also get ones that modify the light in other ways such as ones that act like magnets to attract and repulse the light stream.
Various devices within levels can change the color of the light, as well. Large, open circles in some cases, barriers that bounce light around in others. There are black holes, portals and all manner of obstacles you must direct your light stream around. You must use these various color-changing devices to alter the light to match the color of the equalizer bin it needs to go into. Sometimes there are bins of multiple colors, so you need to change the color of the light multiple times, which requires some very creative thinking, especially when there are more sizable obstacles present.
What I enjoyed most about Auditorium was how it really makes you think outside the box to figure these puzzles out. There are many ways to clear each track, sometimes not even using all the controls you’re given. Once your mind begins to think in the language this game speaks, things will become much easier and you’ll be open to trying many different possibilities that you normally wouldn’t have tried. That, my friends, is where the game shines. It attracts creativity like sunken treasure attracts pirates. Even though some puzzles are dreadfully difficult to figure out, the pure enjoyment you get from playing with your light beam seems to make you forget that you’ve been stuck on the same track for half an hour.
It is oddly rewarding when you fill the various bins with light, hearing the audio track that goes along with it. As you fill one, two, three and more bins, the various instruments and sounds combine to this huge, sweeping melody that perks you up and offers your ears something pleasant. Who says a game has to be filled with eye candy only? Auditorium definitely doesn’t leave your ears out.
However, the eye candy is there, as this game supports stereoscopic 3D, so if you have the TV that can handle it, I’m sure it might erupt into an even better experience. I can only imagine the light stream bouncing all over the screen in 3D, since it is even pretty awesome on a normal HD television.
I really can’t find anything to fault the game on, besides the fact that the tutorials themselves might be a bit cryptic. It also, like most games of its type, isn’t for everyone. For a difficult puzzler, the game is fairly forgiving, allowing you to skip tracks if you can’t figure them out, like I mentioned. Although, to eventually get the whole experience, you’ll want to go back and fill in what you missed. The minimalistic visual style is, like the reward for completing a track successfully, oddly appealing. The swatches of color erupting across the screen of a finished track is almost memorizing in its intensity.
This little gem of a game is definitely worth it for those who are either a fan of off-the-wall titles or who just want to try something new. However, if you don’t fancy yourself a “zen” gamer – and the very thought of titles like Flower turn you off – you probably want to steer clear. If you do give Auditorium HD a go, I’m pretty sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the way it makes you think, create and feel.
- Title: Auditorium HD
- Platform Reviewed: PS3
- Developer: Cipher Prime
- Publisher: Zoo Games
- Release Date: November 2, 2010
- MSRP: $9.99 (PSN)
- Review Copy Info: A download code for this title was provided to DualShockers, Inc. by the publisher for the purpose of this review.