Release Date: January 5th, 2016
Available On: PlayStation 4
2003 PlayStation 2 classic Amplitude is fondly remembered by fans of music games. After a successful Kickstarter campaign it seems we’re seeing the return of a rhythm great. Yet is this remake worth jamming out to or should you just dig up the original?
While Amplitude doesn’t have much of a story, the campaign mode is 15 songs from a soundtrack made by Harmonix. The songs do follow a vague plot outline of someone using a robot to go into a girl’s brain and help jump-start it to bring her out of a coma. Otherwise there’s not really much to it outside of a few pre-song arguments between two doctors over if this will actually work or not.
Gameplay is simple in Amplitude, but extremely addictive. You travel down a lane of notes that correspond to a specific instrument or vocal track in the song. You hit the notes with L1, R1, and R2, and once you clear enough notes off of that lane you’ll get a batch of points and jump to a different lane. This requires you to be paying attention to all parts of a song, as one minute you could be playing along with a drum before jumping over to the vocal track before heading over to the synthesizer. Helping with these would be power-ups that you can earn for playing specific sections of the songs correctly. These power-ups let me do things like slow the song down, destroy parts of highways so I didn’t have to hit the notes, or bump up my multiplier. The game can also be played locally multiplayer with up to four others. You can either cooperate with your friends to get the highest score possible, or you can throw power-downs at each other to confuse them. It’s a fun, if unessential, mode that I was mildly disappointed was only local and not online as well.
While the system is unique and addictive, it does have its drawbacks. The major one is that it’s tough to see note lanes far away from the one you’re on. Often I would lose a combo because I would switch to a lane and be unable to react to a sudden note that I was unable to see. There is a bit of a fix in Freq mode, which turns the game into a tunnel instead of a highway, but it requires beating the campaign once which means it’s not available from the start. Speaking of having to beat the campaign, the vast majority of Amplitude’s 30 song playlist starts off locked. A few are unlocked by scoring well enough in the campaign, which is annoying because if you miss one you can’t just replay a section of the campaign to get it: you need to replay the whole thing which can take about two hours. The rest are just grinding: requiring me to play a large amount of songs so I can unlock a few more. There’s no good reason for this to be in the game, it’s just a waste of time to get to songs I actually want.
Of course a rhythm game lives or dies on its songs. All music is subjective, but I found the soundtrack to be mostly fantastic with a few stinkers. Harmonix’s 15 song campaign is all pretty similar sounding, as it achieves a consistent style for its story. I actually found these to be the best songs of the game. It’s the 15 other songs that really vary in quality. Some of the freeplay songs are taken from other games, tracks from Skullgirls, Transistor, and A City Sleeps show up here and I found these to be fine. A couple donated by Kickstarter backers were easily the worst two of the bunch: both felt like weird a amateur hour that didn’t seem to belong. A song detailing the history of Insomniac Games, besides not fitting at all, is difficult to pay attention to because I’m busy hitting notes. By the end my biggest problem is that it’s only 30 songs, it feels like this track list is a bit small. Most of what is there is great at least, so I didn’t mind replaying some of it.
Amplitude is an interesting remake. The gameplay is fantastic and the song list is mostly great despite its smaller size. There are some extremely questionable decisions, the locked songs being one of the biggest, but overall fans of rhythm games should find a lot to love here.