Review by Erin Bell, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2013
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Arcade rhythm game puts a new spin on playing your favorite song

Subjects & skills
  • Arts

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Cleverly connects music, visuals, and interactivity in ways that get students thinking.

Cons: Limited depth means more style than substance.

Bottom Line: Students will gain a fresh perspective on music from this fast-paced, rhythmic arcade game, but deep learning requires extension.

Audiosurf is a good game to play in class to inspire discussion and introduce artistic reinterpretation. If students are creating their own music or sharing and discussing songs, Audiosurf could be a fun and potentially more visceral way for students to interact with and analyze the music. In an art or music class, have students observe the trippy visuals and twisting tracks that accompany a song they've chosen, and then create their own unique artwork inspired by the same song. Students could also do the activity in reverse order, creating an artwork inspired by a song and then seeing how it compares to Audiosurf's version. As inspiration, have a group discussion about famous paintings that attempt to visualize music like Wassily Kandinsky's "Composition 8" or Georgia O'Keefe's "Pink and Blue No. 2."

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Audiosurf is a music-based arcade game that takes songs from the player's computer and turns them into trippy levels with colored tiles representing beats of music. Players move a ship right or left to collect like-colored tiles while avoiding gray ones, all in time to the beat. The visuals and overall experience change depending on the speed, intensity, and style of the music playing in the background. Mellow music results in a slower, less challenging environment, while fast and aggressive music creates bumpier, busier tracks with more tiles to collect and dodge.

Although it's beautiful and unique, Audiosurf is not the best game for learning when compared to other music games like The Beatles: Rock Band, which encourages kids to perfect songs by hitting all the notes, or Sound Shapes, which lets kids create their own music-inspired game levels. Students can use Audiosurf to develop new perspectives on music, observing how songs and genres look and play differently based on variations in qualities like tempo or structure. They might also gain a stronger sense of rhythm after playing a few levels; however, Audiosurf is more a thrill ride than a deep learning opportunity.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Audiosurf's core gameplay is fairly simple and repetitive, but players can enjoy an infinite number of unique levels limited only by the size of their music playlist.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Kids have a great deal of control over their experience, since levels are constructed based on the songs they choose. These tailored levels allow kids to travel through a song and view its structure, but only abstractly.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

There's a starting tutorial. Unlike some other rhythm games, kids can't slow down or isolate certain passages to practice them. The online fan community isn't moderated, so expect strong language and unfiltered content.

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