Ah, Amplitude. Before the plastic instrument craze took over, the music/rhythm genre still relied on the standard gamepad controller. Of course, games like Dance Dance Revolution soon changed all that but for a while, PaRappa the Rapper, Bust-a-Groove, Frequency, and Amplitude simply called on your timely reactions and rapid-movement dexterity. Personally, I preferred it to the later days of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, which is why I’m super stoked for the return of Amplitude. Harmonix’s PS2 classic is headed to PS3 and PS4 some time this summer and I can’t wait to check out the upgraded iteration.
If you’re unfamiliar, the concept was pretty simple: You fly along separate sections of track with your funky spaceship, shooting notes. Each segment represents part of the song; i.e., one track is for vocals, another for drums, another for guitar, etc. If you can clear a portion of the track without any mistakes, the track disintegrates and you’ve conquered that particular instrument. However, all tracks return after a checkpoint (and there were usually three or four in any given song), so you have to do it all over again. It’s a challenging premise that involves switching tracks at just the right time, and making as few mistakes as possible. It sounds easy but trust me; harder songs on harder difficulties made this game brutal.
For this re-release, not only do we get a significantly updated visual presentation but we also get a more party-oriented vibe. The developers are tossing in four-player action and a variety of compelling multiplayer options that will flesh out the experience. And yeah, this includes four-player local play, which has virtually disappeared from the industry over the past few years. I say it’s a huge loss and a big part of what made gaming so much fun, so it’s great to see local competitive play in a game like Amplitude. With four players, I’m betting the competition can get pretty intense! You can go 2 vs. 2 or 3 vs. 1; the latter works best if the “1” is an especially proficient player. Like me. ;)
The game will boast over 20 songs from artists like Danny B, Freezepop, Papa Roach, Jim Guthrie, and others, and we’ll assume more songs will be added via DLC. And did you know there’s actually a story behind this futuristic setting? In 2112, Nanotechnologists at the Applied Meta-Prionics Limbic Tuning Department create organic machines that can be inserted into the human brain. The goal is to access “both the physical and metaphysical secrets within.” The main character, Mari, programs bots to enter her mind and unlock synesthesia, an enhanced visual/aural perception. Sadly, it’s too much and Mari’s brain shuts down; now you have to use the AMPLITUDE Operating System and enter Mari’s memories, senses and emotions. Blast away and bring her back to life!
Okay, obviously, it’s not about the narrative. I honestly knew nothing about it when I played the game on PS2. Speaking of which, if you enjoyed the game all those years ago, you’ll be happy to know the core concepts and mechanics remain largely the same. There may be some tweaks and streamlining but for the most part, you’ll still play it as you did before: Use either the corresponding face buttons or triggers to shoot the notes and be fast and accurate. I’m not surprised at all that this project turned out to be a huge success on Kickstarter; believe it or not, there are still plenty of us who really love these “old-fashioned” music games. You can keep your silly plastic instruments.
4/13/2015 Ben Dutka