'First ever audio-only game' Aurifi iPhone hits the App Store: First impressions
Graphics are so 2010
As leisure pursuits go, video games are pretty inclusive. Outside the more vigorous Wii titles, you don't need to be able to do much other than hold a control pad or a portable device and see the screen.
With Aurifi, released today on iPhone, even sight is dispensible. Billed by the developer as the 'first ever audio-only game', Aurifi is played entirely by means of auditory cues and physical responses.
The press release is unsurprisingly detailed in its description of the gameplay, and it's worth giving you the full text – just mentally erase the parts where it sounds like somebody's trying to sell you something.
Its innovative gameplay allows players to interact with sound in the same way video games let them interact with graphic objects: as they progress they explore a vast array of original sound components and audio effects, blending hundreds of bespoke musical phrases to create thousands of different permutations.
Only with new developments in mobile technology has this type of game become feasible. Aurifi exploits the touch and motion sensors and range of controls unique to the iPhone and iPod Touch, creating a wide range of sound-based micro-games in a way that no desktop or console-based game can duplicate.
Using headphones, players explore a sonic environment and pick up the skills needed to interact with Aurifi in a highly original manner. They manipulate audio effects by bouncing, steering and batting them through the three-dimensional soundscape.
For example, in one micro-game, tilting the device left and right ‘moves' a sound across the stereo field and players are challenged to 'place' it in a particular spot. It works in harmony with the background music, so that they are contributing to the overall audio environment.
Aurifi is unique among iPhone/iPod Touch games in that it can be played without users ever having to open their eyes. The in-game graphics are kept deliberately simple as they have no connection to the game itself.
It was created using music theory, digital sound design techniques and even the neuroscience of perception. It was created and produced by new game design company Punk Pie Ltd and developed by Four Door Lemon Ltd, supported by Screen Yorkshire and digital agency twentysix.
Chris Walker of Punk Pie says: “To develop Aurifi, we had to get to grips with how the brain processes sounds and what 'images' are created in the mind. It was a fascinating and beautiful insight that we're very lucky to have spent time investigating.
“No two people perceive the same thing and that's what excites us about Aurifi - the ability to compare your experience with someone else, and marvel at the similarities and the differences. Our brains are amazing at building an environment made up of sonic clues and we give you the 'compass' to explore that world.”
Still confused? So was I, so I downloaded the game and had a quick play of the tutorial.
A husky-voiced woman talks you through the basic controls, showing you how to change the pitch, location (left and right, high or low) of the sound playing in your earphones and add percussion by variously tilting left and right, back and forth, tapping the screen, and shaking your iPhone like a maraca.
In some respects it seems to work quite well: the sound, or a thread of it in the tangle of beats and melodies, sloshes appreciably from ear to ear, and the low beats definitely seem to come from the floor while the high beats come from the ceiling.
However, it falls down a bit, on the iPod touch 2nd Gen at least, when it comes to percussion: the game responds too slowly to taps on the screen, so that when you have to, for example, 'crush it', by tapping the screen in time to a rhythm, there's a lag between contact and sound. This doesn't affect your progress, but it's innately unsatisfying.
Nevertheless, the mini-games that don't involve timing work well, and even when technical issues prevent Aurifi from shining it's still an enjoyable and oddly hypnotic experience playing a game with your eyes closed, grooving along to what cool young people may or may not call 'trance music'.
Aurifi costs £2.99 for the time being, and it's out now.