The game Frequency was cast aside by many gamers amidst the holiday buzz of November 2001. The game was praised by many reviewers, deservingly so, but was lost not unlike games such as ICO. It featured a new spin on the Dance Dance Revolution and Parappa the Rapper-style games. The easy to learn, hard to master gameplay featured many popular artists, as well as some underground techno DJ’s. However, it succeeded well enough to spawn the sequel Amplitude that was released in March 2003.
The game follows the same pattern that Frequency laid out: hit buttons to a beat to make a song. Starting up the game, I blasted through the menus, made my "Freq," and started on the tutorial. Everything is covered in the tutorial and I immediately flipped through the song selection, but only three were open to play at the beginning.
The first levels started out somewhat hard due to the new gameplay, but after a few minutes I was playing like a pro. The game almost became second nature. Notes just flowed off my fingers, the combos rolled in; the colors of the beautiful backgrounds filled the screen. It was a true heaven, all to the tune of Quarashi’s Baseline.
The game progresses like any Mario game. Three stages are beaten, a boss is unlocked, and the successful completion of the boss song yields another world of more songs and a boss. If enough points are scored in the first four levels, then a bonus song is unlocked in that world.
There are four difficulty levels in all: Mellow, Normal, Brutal, and Insane. Beating all of the songs (including bonuses) on the Normal difficulty level took close to 4 or 5 hours. The next difficulty is perfect for anyone who could beat it on Normal. On the Brutal and Insane levels, there is one more song total than the lower levels. The learning curve on the game is excellent, and it never pushes a newbie to do a song that is too hard.
The controls are very basic, but responsive. The notes fly by on the faster songs, and the player has a choice to use the shoulder buttons, or the normal right thumb buttons. The D-pad and left analog stick are reserved for switching between the drum, bass, guitar, and other ‘tracks’ in the song. It runs very smoothly and the controls are extremely intuitive and responsive.
Once you get into the flow of the song and the notes are buzzing by at a dizzying pace, the buttons seem to push themselves. At one point, I paused the game to stare at my fingers, because they just automatically pulled off an insane combo on a drum track that would have made Dave Grohl (drummer for Nirvana, and Queens of the Stone Age, lead singer for the Foo Fighters) pass out.
One of the newest and most surprising new features is the online-capability. This mode allows you to compete with another player and try to rack up the highest score on the same song. You have an avatar that represents how good you are at the game by sporting all of the unlockable clothing and headgear which can only be opened by beating the songs. The elusive halo is only granted to the true masters of the game, those who have beaten the Insane difficulty.
The game is extremely addicting, but sadly, the replay value is lacking. Once beaten, the game challenges you to beat it on the next difficulty level. The only problem with this is that the songs get a little repetitive. This is not a huge problem, but for some players it will make the game very short. The solution for this is the remix mode, which allows you to create your own song to the beat, and another solution is online play.
Amplitude is almost an acquired taste, so if you absolutely hate this genre or popular music, then you will not like this game. On the other hand, even mild fans of music or games like this will enjoy this game and will have a blast playing all the modes and feel a great sense of accomplishment with the completion of each song.
Amplitude is a game that will last in your PS2 collection for a long time and is a great pick-up-and-play game once you learn the premise and controls. It is a must-have for music fans, and a must-rent for players looking for a fun game to play with friends.