After a nail-biting kickstarter that would not have been made without a few users and Insomniac Games’s last minute donation to fully fund the game, Amplitude most likely would not have seen the light of day. Harmonix decided to revive the classic PS2 rhythm game and it’s coming exclusively to PlayStation on January 5.
Before diving into Amplitude‘s content problem, which is essentially its lone major flaw, it’s worth noting that if you consider gameplay king, then this is the game for you. For those who have forgotten about Amplitude after its meager PlayStation 2 sales and an entire generation without a follow up, it is, in its most basic definition, Rock Band with a controller. Players take control of a self-propelled spacecraft on a number of tracks, each corresponding to a song’s individual components, while shooting rhythm gems with either L1, R1 and R2 or Square, Triangle and Circle (for the left, center and right, respectively, of each track). The name of the game here is to get as high of a score as possible by shooting every gem, moving between tracks in fluid streaks and maintain full on beat rhythm at all times. For those who are looking to get a bit of that classic Harmonix action without having to use plastic instruments that will soon collect dust, then Amplitude might fulfill those cravings for a measly $20 on the PSN.
There’s not a great deal of gameplay more satisfying than being completely in the zone in a game like Amplitude. When that seamless mind-body connection occurs in the midst of a massive combo and focus, the result is a sense that you’re a video game demigod. As someone who is admittedly terrible at the original Amplitude on PS2, it was a joy to get lost in a game that typically causes me a great deal of frustration. This is definitely Amplitude‘s greatest victory, as it not only has the tough-as-nails gameplay that experts crave, but it’s perhaps the most accessible game we’ve seen in this genre since, well, the last Amplitude. There are no dance pads, no arguments over who gets to play the drums and no other separate expensive peripherals needed. It’s just you and your controller and if anything goes wrong, it’s all on you. The main draw here is the core gameplay and Amplitude‘s entire audience is likely going to be made up of people who decide that this is something that they desire.
Amplitude works great by yourself, but there is also a multiplayer addition available. Presented in a sort of casual way, there is no online multiplayer, but local is definitely supported. Up to four players can go against each other in a free-for-all, or set up teams to see who can get the highest score. There’s even some special power-ups, like the ability to kick a player off a certain track, possibly messing up their combo in the process. Single player will likely be the preferred way to play, but if you have some friends over, Amplitude offers a few hours of fun and excitement.
There are several power-ups in quickplay mode as well that you can capture while playing phrases during entire sections, slow down the song so you can complete a section you may be having difficulty with, and a slew of other items you can use to level the playing field as the songs progress in difficulty toward the end in the campaign mode or during multiplayer/quickplay mode. When used strategically, they’re powerful crutches that can prop you up when you can’t quite nail a difficult drum solo or a complicated bassline.
The previous game had a nice mix of techno and electronic music, with hits from Freezepop, P.O.D and others. Harmonix still tapped some of those talents, but they went in a slightly different direction with the overall sound. The main section of the game is contained in the campaign, which presents players with very similar sounding music throughout and can be completed in about an hour or so, maybe even faster. Almost none of these songs will get into your head like past ones did, with the best of the 30 tracks being locked away behind unlock walls that can be quite frustrating to get through by having to play X amount of songs until they unlock. With non-impressive background visuals, there’s still some nice music here, it’s just not the kind that most will seek out the soundtrack for. However, for a game that relies so heavily on music, it’s unfortunate that I did not enjoy actually listening or enjoying the visuals more. The thing is, Amplitude‘s central gameplay mechanics are downright stupendous, but it’s everything else that prevents it from being a true rhythm game masterpiece.