Oh hey, look who's here! How's it going, cool cat? What's shakin', bacon? You look good, very well rested. And is that… wait a minute… waaait… is that a little bit of a tan? Did you go out and do that water-skiing class you were talking about? Righteous! You keep following that crazy rainbow, you crazy leprechaun. No, seriously, you look great. And you're not that short. Me? I'm good. Busy busy busy. Work, you know. Work. Work work work workity work. All I can do is try not to let the man get me AAAAAA I CAN'T HIDE IT ANY LONGER! THE FULL VERSION OF AUDITORIUM IS OUT AAAAAAAA HOLY MACARONI AAAAAAAAAA KERMIT ARMS AAAAAAAAAAAA!!!
Yep, it's true. For those of you who enjoyed the demo (read as: practically everyone), you can now purchase the complete version of Auditorium, which features over 70 levels, 15 musical compositions, and much, much more gameplay. You gotcher Black Hole, which sucks up all your pretty particles into its heartless maw. You gotcher Rabbit Control for speeding up the Flow, yer Deflect Control for bouncing it around, yer Portals for teleporting it from place to place. There are no major surprises, but if you just want five times as much Auditorium, you won't be disappointed. All the levels from the demo have even been redesigned, so if you've already played those 15 stages to pieces, you won't feel like you're repeating yourself.
If you never did play the Auditorium demo (How's your cave these days? Cool and shady?), here's a quick run-down of the gameplay. The Flow is a stream of particles drifting through a vast empty space. Your job is to direct the Flow through one or more fixed containers, each of which plays a different instrumental part of an overall symphony. You can steer the Flow by means of Controls: symbol-emblazoned circles that exert force on passing particles. Just click and drag with the mouse to move the controls anywhere on the screen, or to expand and contract their sphere of influence.
For instance, The Attract Control pulls nearby particles towards its center in a spiral. Direction Controls push the Flow in one of the four cardinal directions. The Repel Control boomerangs it back the way it came. By allowing you nearly complete freedom to manipulate the position and size of your controls, Auditorium lets you approach each puzzle from several different avenues.
When you finally fill all the containers, the screen shifts, like the universe just hiccuped, and you can relax and bask in the tuneful sound of your success. That's right, the single most common complaint from Auditorium's demo days has been addressed. When you complete a level, the game will stay with you, playing your painstakingly assembled song until you click the mouse to move on. This is one of the few Flash games you'll want to play with headphones, or at least a good speaker set-up.
Cipher Prime, the two-man development team composed of William Stallwood and Dain Saint, is asking $10.99 for Auditorium. It's still an online game—your purchase gives you a name and password for the site, which allows you to log into your account from any computer without losing your progress. The disadvantage is that you have to be connected to the internet to play. Of course the demo is still available, if you need to convince yourself.
Analysis: Auditorium was our overwhelming choice for the Best Browser-Based Puzzle Game of 2008, but it's worth noting that it doesn't dominate the field in any one aspect. It's not the most involved, complex puzzle game around; some are more interesting. The music is stunning, but I probably wouldn't buy the soundtrack. The visuals are lovely, but they're just little colored dots zipping around. It's not even the most accessible game in history; it was a lot easier to pick up and play Pac-Man, before hardly anyone knew what a video game was.
The combination of all these things, however—the ease of play, the graphics, the music, the puzzle designs, the very concept—is intoxicating. It's like when Star Wars came out, and everyone's imagination sparked at the idea that there was this unseen Force that could be slung around by extraordinary people to do amazing things. Well, Auditorium lets you control the Force, like you're an orchestra-wielding Jedi.
Auditorium's flaws mostly concern its structure. The levels are divided into Acts, and they unlock one Act at a time, which means if you get stuck on a particular puzzle, the only other levels you can skip to are even more difficult ones. I would have preferred to have the first level of several different Acts available, so I could skip to different compositions when I get frustrated. When you're stumbling around fruitlessly, waiting for a flash of inspiration, those gorgeous musical samples start to repeat way too often.
The simplicity of the interface has one major drawback. When you have several overlapping controls, it can be unreasonably difficult to move the one you want. It would be nice to be able to press a key to cycle between your options.
None of that ruins the experience, of course. Auditorium is addictive as sweet caffeine, and it says something positive about humanity that this game has garnered such wide appeal among dedicated gamers and Luddites alike. Solving a tricky puzzle and going to the next one is a powerful draw, of course, but the main reward here is just plain old beauty. No saving the universe, no destroying some ancient heart of evil, just a chance to listen to some good classical music and watch a light show. And it's one of the most popular Flash games ever. How great is that?