Game Review: Auditorium (PS3)

This is one of those rare games that’s instantly engaging and completely engrossing.  Most puzzle games have a varying period of total confusion and frustration until that “aha!” moment when whatever arbitrary rule set being imposed makes sense.  With Auditorium there’s oddly no ramp up at all: the mechanics are introduced so slowly and easily and with no imposed time limits.  You’re free to play with each of the tools and explore their effects on the environment and while you’re definately learning it just doesn’t feel like work.

That’s not to say that the game is a cakewalk – the later puzzles can be downright devlish – but the puzzles are arranged into a playlist with four to seven per song.  Each song has its own difficulty curve and you don’t have to complete an entire song to unlock the next allowing you to play at your own pace and spend your frustration where you will.

The point of the game is to direct flying particles into containers using a small collection of tools provided for each level.  The position and intensity of each tool is changed with simple controls.  The environment can alter the color of particles or their position and you musy work with it to complete the challenges.  There’s very little precision required here, just patience and as the game is fantastically beautiful both visually and aurally you really don’t mind spending the time.  For each container that you fill an instrumental track is added to the score and there’s an utterly satisfying cymbal roll when a puzzle is completed.

Like most good puzzlers the game is difficult to explain but easy to understand in action.  A free online demo is available at www.playauditorium.com although there is absoltely something to be said for playing the game in HD on a large screen.

My one niggling complaint about the game is that for a pick-up-and-play game it forces you to watch the entirety of the introductory movie every single time  you start.  This is a peeve of mine for any game, but especially a game like this where the intro movie is longer than many of the levels.  More seriously – and of course your mileage may vary – but I found the very last two levels to be downright infuriating.

The last level alone took nearly half of my total play time and I was only able to beat it by “wiggling” the tools in a manner that felt just a little like cheating.  It almost felt that the level wasn’t tested correctly on the PS3 version.  Of course that’s only one level out of over 150 – so definately take this complaint with a grain of salt.

Despite the fact that – according to my lovely bride – I always have to find something to complain about this game is an absolute joy.  Easily in the top five experiences available on PSN.

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