April 6th, 2005
|djkat||11:03 pm - Amplitude - Music for the Masses - 8.5|
Rhythm games. What comes to mind when you think of them? Foreign music? Raver wannabes, jumping up and down on a metal pad, who should never be allowed within fifty feet of any dance floor? Grizzled hippie folk playing air guitar, or working their fingers on a keyboard with a speed that would make Mavis Beacon proud? Of course, most of the games I refer to are based on the Bemani line of video games, all of which can be found at arcades all around the world, most of which originate in the East where these sort of games have a greater popularity. While all of these do cater to the niche group who follow the genre here in the west, and follow it more rabidly then the American Idol competitions, it also alienates the gaming body at large who would never touch one of these games with a ten-foot pole.
Massachusetts-based Harmonix brings something to the gamers en masse with their offering, Amplitude, for the Playstation 2. Like most music and rhythm games before it, Amplitude is easy to pick up and play. After picking a difficulty level, you have a selection of songs from various genres, 26 different songs when the game is fully unlocked. As mentioned, if you were put off by these games before due to high-pitched female vocals, or strange techno music, Amplitude's got you covered. Songs range from the more mainstream P.O.D, Garbage and Blink 182, to the more obscure Komputer Kontroller, or the drum 'n bass stylings of Dieselboy. Regardless, there is something here for everyone. No cutesy J-Pop here.
Like any good DJ, Amplitude brings some of the mainstream...
Each song, or 'level' is composed of various tracks connected side by side on a cylinder (ala Tempest), representing various instruments that compose the song. When you first enter each level, the various instruments are turned off, making the song a shadow of its former self leaving you to pick up the slack. Each instrument track is then composed of subsections, which contain a sequence of targets (either a left, a middle and a right one) that when blasted release a note, or other lyric of the song. The targets in these sections need to be blasted in succession because first of all, to keep that particular instrument working, until it turns back off again and secondly to keep your lifebar filled. If you fail to complete the pattern or decide to just consistently skip subsections, you lose a bit of life. The trick to getting a good score, not to mention completing the levels themselves, is to switch from one track to another, trying to keep as many of the instruments 'on' as possible.
...with the more delightfully obscure.
This might be a issue because the levels themselves are eye candy in themselves. As you move along the song tracks, the area around you is filled with a tour de force of eye candy. Lights and other effects flicker with each beat, screens of animations and videos of the artist play on scenes, its just as fun and interesting to watch as opposed to play. Overall, the graphics themselves don't hold much of a candle to recent PS2 titles such as God of War, or the Metal Gear Solid series, but in terms of presentation, it does everything right.
Aside from the basic gameplay, Amplitude also offers a innovative remix mode. This functions as a map editor, but can help foster your inner producer/DJ. Tempo changing, reverb effects are available to fool around with and you can even bring in a friend for collaberations. It isn't anything as complex as MTVs Music Generator or anything offered on a computer, but its robust enough that you can make your own dance mix to Papa Roach. Gothy-emo kids need to groove too once in a while...
Multiplayer is there for those who want it. A battle mode to score the most points, the remix mode, or if you're feeling adventurous, take your skills online. Similar to that of Halo 2's matchmaking system, the central server tracks what difficulty level you've completed to help find players for your jam sessions. Lag was easily manageable, but there aren't too many players out there. This is alright, as the multiplayer is more of a added bonus to those who have a network adapter and is there for those who want a break from playing Final Fantasy 11 or SOCOM online .
This picture doesn't do the game justice. Amplitude is digital crack for your pupils.
Bringing pick-up-and-play gameplay, with a solid listing of artists and great use of effects, Amplitude shows that the Western Hemisphere can rock just as hard as the Eastern. At the very minimum, give it a rental. Amplitude is a true diamond in the rough.
8.5 out of 10.