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On 01/31/2011 at 12:23 PM by Nick DiMola
This experimentation with puzzles and music is unbelievably engaging.
For many years, puzzle games have been very well-defined and extremely rigid in their design. Whether it was shifting blocks, or simply moving on a set plane, every game had a finite set of possible moves and functions. As time has gone on, particularly in this generation, puzzle games have become more abstract, requiring use of a more fluid style of control and design. Auditorium HD is such a game, as it allows players to move and shift a flow of sound waves in real time toward different repositories to produce a song and complete a level. With an open-ended way to solve puzzles, and a wide variety of different tools to direct the flow of sound waves, Auditorium HD is a fascinating and deep puzzle game that remains interesting from beginning to end.
While it’s hard to put my finger on exactly what’s so great about Auditorium, one of my favorite aspects is the ability to solve each puzzle in the game with a unique solution. Because all of the tools are so fluid and can be combined in many different ways, it never feels as if there is one single set solution to any puzzle. Experimenting with all of the moving parts and tools is the true magic of the game, providing a huge amount of satisfaction when everything comes together and forms the intended song.
Auditorium does a great job of providing both audio and visual cues for the player to signify when this is happening. As explained earlier, players are responsible for directing the flow of a sound wave across the level. In order to do so players are given tools that will change the flow of the initial wave, which is moving in a particular direction depending on the level. These tools can do things like reverse the flow, point it left or right, swirl it around, speed it up, or even split it. Each tool starts as a small circular field and players can expand or contract it in order to affect a bigger or smaller portion of the wave.
In most levels there are permanently positioned colored fields that change the color of the sound wave. The sound wave typically begins as a cyan color, but after being directed through a colored field, it will change to the displayed hue. The repositories players must fill are also colored, pushing players to direct the wave to the correct repository of the corresponding color.
Each of the repositories represents a certain part of a song track, and as they are filled, the volume on that section of the track increases until it hits full capacity. When all repositories are full, every part of the song will play simultaneously, thus completing the level. Bringing all the different song sections together is a uniquely satisfying achievement, but it's even more entertaining when the song is familiar. For players who recognize some of the more familiar tracks in certain level, they won’t even have to check the visual cues provided by the repository to know they are producing the track properly.
To go along with the musical motif, the game is split into two separate soundtracks - one Classic and the other Modern. Each soundtrack contains a staggering number of songs, and every track offers a number of individual levels. The musical numbers that back these various levels are simple, but soothing, setting the overall tone and mood of the game.
As players progress through the soundtrack they are always being introduced to new tools that are required to solve the levels. With more tools it becomes necessary to intersect multiple fields in order to solve puzzles. Because the interaction can be tweaked so precisely, solutions to any given level never feel singular. Just because you solved it one way, doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been solved in another. The experimentation with these tools and slowly getting the track to play as you shift around the wave is extremely satisfying.
Interestingly, I can’t recall a time when things got truly frustrating. If I wasn’t finding a solution right away, I always knew that I merely had to continue to tweak the tools to get things just right. At times, I felt as if I cheated to solve the answer, though. Because everything is occurring in real time, it’s possible to use any given tool in the level as a moving part by simply having control of it. In order to take use of this, I would get the puzzle solved to near completion, and move the last piece back and forth to reach two repositories until they both were filled. Of course, if I wasn’t precisely accurate they would begin to drain since the flow was not constant enough.
It’s worth noting that this is made much easier through use of the Move controller, which is supported by the game. Since you are moving objects around a 2D plane, the pointing abilities of the Move are well-suited for this type of gameplay. The PS3 controller works just fine, but the Move is extremely intuitive and is the preferred method to play the game, if you have one at your disposal.
At times, Auditorium can be a taxing game, and it’s certainly not one that can be played for hours on end. Though extremely enjoyable, it’s best played in short thirty minute to one hour segments, taking a break when you’re tired of tinkering with the in-game objects.
That being said, Auditorium is still a fascinating and enjoyable game thanks to its extremely dynamic and unique design. No matter how many puzzle games you’ve played before, nothing is quite like Auditorium HD. Deep puzzles with a wide variety of solutions and a soothing soundtrack come together to form one of the best PSN games of 2010.
Auditorium not only saw release on the PlayStation 3, but the PSP as well. The differences between the two versions of the game are fairly minimal, though the PlayStaion 3 version is the definitive one.
Obviously, the PSP edition doesn't feature the HD visuals of the PlayStation 3, nor the Move-enabled controls that make the game even more accessible and easy to play.
Most importantly the PSP only includes one of the two soundtracks found in the PlayStation 3 version, Auditorium Classic. The Modern soundtrack is completely omitted, likely in the interest of space.
It's also worth mentioning that the game has an extremely long load time, which is a bit inconvenient if you are trying to sneak in a level or two quickly.
All things considered, the PSP version is still enjoyable to play through, and a great game for on-the-go gaming, assuming you have more than a few minutes to account for the game's load time.