There's even a two-player mode, where an extra lane is added and you each take charge of separate sides of the grid. The Mono craft, meanwhile, are almost a new game in themselves, removing the colour-matching element entirely and tasking you with collecting as many blocks as possible while dodging nasty grey blocks that clog up your grid. As this mode offers a hefty 30 percent score increase for avoiding all the grey blocks, the eye-boggling Elite Ninja Mono - with no shoulder lanes and a punishing pace - is where you'll find a lot of the hardcore score-chasers.
None of this would work, of course, if the game fluffed the actual translation of musical track to racetrack. Amazingly, the process is not only extremely impressive but remarkably fast. Most tracks take only a few seconds to convert, and yet not only are the beats translated seamlessly into blocks but the feel and texture of the music is subtly recreated in the level layout. Swooshing tunnels enhance the intense moments, while bumps, loops and barrel rolls are mapped onto the tune with impressive accuracy. I loaded up Sign O' The Times, and the level turned purple. Coincidence, or terrifying sentience?
Either way, you really are playing on a 3D map of your top tunes and it's easy to waste hours just going through all your favourites to see how they turn out. It's never quite as visually immersive as Rez, probably because the gameplay requires fairly intense focus on the centre of the screen rather than encouraging you to look around, but there's still a pulsating wow factor to the minimalist graphics, all the more impressive because of the game's amateur roots. And you can always tweak the look of the game with different background colours and screen effects, and even edit the colours of the blocks to suit your own taste.
If you create your own Audiosurf account, every track you play through gets added to the online leaderboards, allowing you to see which music other people are playing along to, and how you compare to those who have played the same tracks as you. It's a neat idea, straddling both online competition and Facebook nosiness, especially as the game emails you if someone beats your score, goading you to have another try. The leaderboards were well populated within 24 hours of the game going on sale, with scores nudging 100,000 already commonplace. You can also browse the most popular song choices, although it's somewhat dispiriting to see that so many simply choose tracks like Knights of Cydonia or Through the Fire and Flames, already famous for mangling the fingers of Guitar Hero players. Well done, original thinkers!
There are minor grumbles, but it feels a bit churlish to dwell on them too much. The instructions and tutorial are a bit piecemeal, meaning that some features feel a little vague in intent. In fact, the whole front end could do with a little tightening up, as sifting through a large folder can be cumbersome. The game already uses the MP3 tags to pull artist and track info, so it'd be nice to be able to sort by genre. It's also a shame you can't sticky your favourite tracks, or create your own mix-tape tournaments by compiling the best tracks one after another. While the game remembers previously used songs, speeding up loading, you still have to cue up each song as a separate entity. You can put a group of MP3s in a folder and play from one to the next that way, but that's a right fiddle. It'd be nice to be able to organise this sort of thing in-game rather than moving the actual files around. A little media player functionality would go a long way, basically.
Considering the game's lo-fi roots, such rough edges are to be expected and - to a certain extent - forgiven. Hopefully they'll keep updating and patching it until it shines a little brighter. However, given the low price, that's certainly no excuse for fans of music games not to throw a little money in this direction. At the very worst, it's an ingenious multimedia toy that'll have you dusting off the untouched corners of your MP3 collection for a few happy evenings. But for those twitching fingers that still enjoy the thrill of the high score, Audiosurf has the potential to become a bite-sized obsession thanks to its quick fix gameplay and infinite musical possibilities.