Game Music, Software

A Puzzling Journey Into Sound: A.V. The Game (Review)

April 13, 2015 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook A Puzzling Journey Into Sound: A.V. The Game (Review)on Twitter

Launched as a Kickstarter campaign on July 9, 2014, A.V. was a modest success as it was successfully funded by 45 backers for a total  $5654 just over its minimum goal of $5,500.  The game has since been Green-lit on Steam and still undergoing refinements.

The creators describe the game as  “a first-person stealth-puzzle-musical-adventure game (Try saying that 5 times fast). The game places the player in the role of a rogue music-processing algorithm from a computer’s sound systems. From this role, the player can view the world only through audible means.”

I share my thoughts on the game and the overall audio experience it offers its players. Is A.V. a worthwhile sensory experience? Read on to find out.

My overall impression of the game is that visually  its a cross between Tron and Portal, with heavy emphasis on audio as a means of navigating and solving puzzles.  It also really reminded me of some serious time I spent playing Atari’s Star Wars Arcade.  The game begins with a wordy introduction where a computer algorithm explains his appearance and how he navigates a digital world using sound.

Visually the game is very dark, and the idea behind it is that you can see where you’re supposed to go using sound pings like a submarine, or like a bat using echo location.  Using your mouse you can shoot these pings forward and as they travel the environment is illuminated revealing in greater detail objects or paths to take.  As you begin to move forward the music kicks in.  If you’re moving in a forward direction you a musical beat accompanies you giving you a sense of progress.  When you stop, so does the beat.  The music in the game is not overly elaborate but it is engaging and works very well in the game.

The deluxe edition of the Steam game comes with the soundtrack and at first I found it a bit confusing because the Steam interface by default selects the sound effects folder.  You have to back up a bit and find the album version of the soundtrack to be able to listen to the music.  It’s short totaling 5 tracks but it’s really a pleasure to listen to, quality over quantity.  I would love to hear more.   The raw wave file soundtrack is also accessible but does not offer the same listening experience as the album version.

As a gamer today I find that we are spoiled.  We no longer read instruction manuals in order to learn the controls, or keys for gameplay.  Instead we’ve been trained by several excellent game designers to jump right in and are taught through clever tutorials how to play as we go.  When we encounter a new area or skill we’re prompted with instructions on what to do.  Portal did this through imagery – and so does A.V.  A.V.’s in game tutorial is more third person narration based with very small all CAPS text displayed on screen which I found difficult to read.  During gameplay you will also encounter images in green that prompt you how to get past the next challenge in the environment.  This format gives the game more of a puzzle feel and some players may not have the patience for it.

To be honest, I got frustrated with the game.  I think it’s beautiful, and the idea of sound to navigate the environment is a great concept but I think the game has the potential to be better.  I found a video posted by YouTube user nanDEMOnai and after watching it felt that it mirrored the experience I had playing the game.  The video runs about 9 minutes and near the end of the play session he encounters an instruction and just cannot seem to figure out where to go.  I in fact struggled at the same spot and did not continue.

However, for an Indie game I have to give A.V.’s creators very high marks.  I think that it has the potential to become a great game with future updates.  There has been some discussion of support for Oculus Rift and I think that is where this game really has the potential to shine.  The audio in the form of music and sound effects is solid.

The best way to describe the game would be to imagine you’re Matt Murdoch (AKA Daredevil) playing Portal in the dark without an Aperture Science gun.  A.V. may not be worth checking out yet, but it has the potential to be a great game in the future.  I for one will be watching for news of Oculus Rift support, and with Netflix’s upcoming Daredevil series the market for the game might come calling.

A.V. is available on Steam for $10 with the soundtrack and digital artbook.

Have you had a chance to experience A.V.?  What did you think of the game?


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