When this games predecessor, Frequency , was released not too many heads turned. It was an interesting excursion in between GTA3 and Final Fantasy X , and thus lost in a glut of other high-caliber games. Now the music-infused gameplay returns for another shot at recognition with Amplitude? a game that fixes many issues with the original and provides much more variety in the way of songs and graphics.
Amplitude marks the return of completely untouchable mechanics, overpowering marketing, hype and celebrity voices. In it you attempt to match each layer of a song with button presses, hoping to complete a section and clear it, allowing that layer to continue playing without your input. Freezepop, for example, has a song called “Super Sprode.” Each instrument is represented by a track filled with marks. When the marks hit your reticules you push the corresponding button and voila, you clear the track and that element of the song plays on. Once you finish the vocal track, the singer of Freezepop no longer needs you to pay attention to her, leaving you free to focus on drums, guitar or any number of effects.
Like any good game, the idea sounds simple but proves difficult to master. Earlier songs play at a leisurely pace, allowing you plenty of time to anticipate the track. As you progress the songs get faster and the marks more elaborate. There are many different difficulty settings, each one increasing at just the right increment to give you trouble without turning you away. It’s that draw that made you pump quarters into Street Fighter 2 or (quite a bit before that) Tempest . You almost had it?just one more try and you’ll win.
Clearing the track once doesn’t save you either. Eventually that layer goes away and you must play it again. Even getting the whole song going doesn’t save you; it will all come back and haunt you again. This keeps you bouncing from track to track, frantically trying to keep the song going. Nothing compares to mastering a song in Amplitude ; it’s one of those rare occasions where you can actually impress people just by playing a game so well. Doing so earns you a score for the level. Score high enough and you unlock more songs and the desire to attain an even better score.
Adding to the near perfect game play are the songs. There are offerings from Garbage, David Bowie, Pink, Slipknot, Run DMC?the list is extensive and varied. The game was made for fans of music in general. If you like anything, it’s in here somewhere. Each song has its own environment you play in, unlike Frequency . Images of the band and related materials are sprinkled throughout the stage, completely immersing you in the song. It’s very hard to accurately describe, but a wondrous joy to play.
Another improvement in Amplitude is the design of the tracks. Now they are color-coded and laid out in a flat line. Previously they were in a cylindrical format that made it hard to tell when a piece of the song was about to run out. The tracks also seemed to end too soon, never giving you a real chance to hear the entire song running at once. Some prefer the old style, but after playing this you won’t go for Frequency’s tunnel vision presentation.
As if the game play weren’t engaging enough, the graphics are a colorful, drug-induced orgy of construction. Because the game is focused on only music and simple button presses, the PS2’s hardware is free to create bizarre patterns and images throughout the song. People watching will have no clue what’s going on, and neither will you. Your attention is squarely on the track but watch someone else play and enjoy the show. Some randomness would have been nice, as once you’ve seen the stage enough it loses its luster, but all things considered it’s a trip to behold.
What kind of musical game would this be if it didn’t feature some amazing tunes? Nearly every genre of music in represented (sorry country and classical fans) with a credible band. Perhaps the best part is experiencing a band you’ve never heard of and loving it. Freezepop did this for many people. It had a song in Frequency that was received very well and thus secured a place in this game for a follow up piece. The game’s as good for the music industry as it is for gaming itself. The message here is to turn up your TV and play for hours, work and social life be damned. It would have been pretty cool if you could create your own songs, or input new ones off of owned CDs, but perhaps that’s left for a hopeful sequel.
If you haven’t noticed a theme in this review yet, perhaps this will quell your worries about game play getting old. Is Pac-Man still fun today? Can you actually watch someone play Halo and not want to give it a try? Amplitude provides this sensation and more. It’s one of those titles that you see in your sleep, like the first time you overdosed on Tetris . It utterly demands your attention and practice, something most games today don’t offer. No cheat code or password will make you better; you have to do it on your own. The satisfaction of beating a song (with a high score, no less) on the “insane” setting is so rich it comes not recommended, but demanded to any fan of classic gaming.
You’re getting the tried and true game play of the ?80s with the presentation of modern day technology. This is gaming in its purest form, as both entertainment and a test of reflexes. By now this and Frequency have been discounted and forgotten, but I implore you to search for them and undergo the transformation from casual gamer to hardcore elite.