2013 IGF Finalists: Excellence in Audio

PixelJunk 4AM

The latest in a long line of games with excellent audio, PixelJunk 4AM takes the “malleable synthesizer” concept of PixelJunk Eden one step further. By combining the Playstation Move with what is best described as an “audio canvas,” PixelJunk 4AM has created an engaging audio toy for those interested in creating music.

There is no plot or goal in PixelJunk 4AM despite what you make for yourself. You are given a list of songs to choose from, and choosing a song brings you to a canvas where you can mess with samples, mixing, and other aspects of the song’s construction. What makes PixelJunk 4AM unique, however, is that this canvas is one of abstracted visuals rather than something so brutish as a piano roll.

This makes creating music more akin to dancing than the careful, measured thought of involved music creation programs. The Playstation Move controller turns your movements into mixing actions, and those actions provide distinct tactile feedback in the form of synthesized visuals and gentle vibration. Thus, creating a track becomes more of an experiment and less of a science. It’s a very engaging and fun music toy, and while it might not be a “proper” music creation program, it is still incredibly fun. You can pick up PixelJunk 4AM from the Playstation Store.

FRACT OSC (Honorable Mention)

Kentucky Route Zero is the last finalist in Excellence in Audio, and it has already been covered in the Excellence in Narrative article. Instead of covering it again, here is an honorable mention that is also very much worth playing.

Good puzzle games often combine multiple senses into one, and force you to think outside of the everyday norm. FRACT OSC is one of those puzzle games, and it combines audio, visuals, and smart puzzles into one excellent package. I haven’t been this interested in a straightforward puzzle game in a very long time, and the fact that FRACT OSC holds my interest without any sort of story is nothing short of astounding.

FRACT OSC revolves around moving through a low-poly environment and interacting with various objects using a mouse-driven interaction system. Puzzles range from something relatively simple – sequencing a synthesizer to open a set of doors, for example – to the incredibly complex, and each one will make you feel like both a genius and an idiot once you’ve finished it. That is the hallmark of good puzzle design, and FRACT OSC has it in spades. Simple solutions, difficult paths to find those solutions.

The reason FRACT OSC is and honorable mention in Audio, rather than Design, is because all of the puzzles use sounds and music in some way. The sounds often give clues as to how the puzzle can be solved, and the music created by a fully-finished puzzle is very pleasant. The desire to finish the puzzle is just as much about hearing the next small song as it is about actually completing something. FRACT OSC is currently being prepared for (presumably) a 2013 release.

Most people place more emphasis on graphics than audio, so tomorrow we cover the Excellence in Visual Art finalists!

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