AUDIOSURF / Dylan Fitterer / PC
Audiosurf's concept is pretty simple - steer a spaceship down a track by simply moving left and right to pick up colored blocks. You might be surprised how much mileage you get out of this concept by adding a few varied modes of play and building tracks based on the end user's own mp3 collection.
The music used not only builds the track, but the speed at which you move along shifts with the tempo of the song. It's really a pretty remarkable track generation system and is the central strength of the game.
The one iffy bit is actually needing to have your mp3s on hand and sorted out on the hard drive in order to use them to generate levels. If you keep them on, say, an Apple device, getting them back off is a pain in the ass without third-party workaround software. Purchase of the game also includes the Orange Box complete soundtrack, however, so at the least you can surf to that overplayed Portal end credits song to your hearts content. Also, the developer features a handful of indie tracks weekly in a post that's on the main page when you start the game, and you can download and use these in-game.
The simplest mode of play is Ninja Mono, which has you dodging grey blocks while trying to pick up any and all colored ones. It's simple, but certainly not easy on the Elite level, just less complex than the other modes. Other modes give you a track with no "grey block" obstacles to avoid, but in order to not get a shit score, you have to collect colors in a certain pattern rather than just picking up anything that pops up in front of you. Scores can (optionally) be uploaded to the Audiosurf servers for a leaderboard that shows about the top ten or fifteen scores for each track.
It's an excellent "pick up and play" sort of game for a few minutes of downtime here and there. That said it's also far from perfect - it would be nice if the tracks synced up with the music in a more holistic way, you mostly just get bumps in the track based on bass and a smattering of spread-out colors for obvious events like a drum fill/cymbal crash in the midst of a quiet song portion. Also, point totals and the scoreboard are a big draw for this game, but there's just too many ways to cheat and cheese your way to the top in that regard (artificial slowdowns at the user end, "remixing" a track to play three times over yet still be categorized as the original song.)
The latter point is irrelevant if you don't really care about the leaderboard, though, and otherwise it's a fantastic casual game at a low price point.
* Official site (demo download)
* Designer interview
* Gameplay Video