Years ago, before Rock Band and Guitar Hero, Harmonix was known for Frequency and Amplitude. These games, along with titles like Guitaroo Man, helped pave the way for the heavy influx of rhythm games that we saw in the mid to late 2000’s. These Harmonix titles were heavily identifiable for their techno soundtracks and bright, colorful look. So, the idea of rebooting Amplitude for a new generation of gamers seemed like it would be a great idea and while the basics of the game are there, the soundtrack really will be your main deciding factor.
For players of the classic Amplitude or the more recent Rock Band Blitz, the gameplay should look fairly familiar. You have several lanes for each piece of the track. In each lane, there are three notes that you need to hit in time with the beat. Unlike something like Blitz, you can (in theory) hit every note in a song. And when you complete a series of notes, you clear the lane for a certain amount of time.
As you clear a lane, you then need to switch to a different lane and clear out the notes in that lane. Failing to clear notes will cause your overall health to drop, eventually leading to you failing the song. This, obviously, is one major difference between Amplitude and other more recent rhythm games as failing feels like somewhat of a relic to these sorts of games. Whether you are playing this game for the sake of trying to get a high score or are playing just to hear the music, the idea of failing is a bit outdated as all it does is forces you to replay the same music to advance.
A large chunk of the game is spent in the campaign. The campaign is designed as a concept album that is presumably about brain surgery. As you advance through the setlist, you will unlock other bonus tracks by Danny Barnowsky and the obligatory Freezepop song. However, the main setlist, created in-house by Harmonix, feels fairly forgettable.
The Harmonix tracks pale in comparison to the tracks of the original and even the guest tracks feel far less interesting. While having something like the main dungeon theme from Crypt of the Necrodancer is cool, it’s nothing like having David Bowie, Run-DMC and Weezer, who were all in the setlist for the first game. Honestly, this is the biggest sticking point for fans of rhythm games. Even if the game plays extremely well, it doesn’t matter if you really aren’t into the music.
The actual act of playing the game feels pretty good, once you’ve configured the control settings to your liking. The initial controller setting has you using the L and R buttons to hit notes, but there are several controller options, including one to set the controller to be similar to the one used in Rock Band Blitz. It’s a nice option, especially considering that your hands can tend to cramp if you use the L and R buttons.
There is one major issue, however, with using the Blitz style of control and it is heavily influenced by the way the game plays. As previously mentioned, you switch between lanes as you clear out others. However, the way that the tracks move, it can mean that if you are switching to lanes on the other side of the note of the highway, you may not see the next note. If you miss any note in a segment of a lane, you lose the ability to fully clear the lane. This is not helped by the fact that if you use the Blitz style of control, you generally use the L and R buttons to change lanes. This will not necessarily move you to the next lane that notes will be on. If you use the right analog stick, you automatically move to the next lane that has notes in it but using this feels awkward while using the face buttons to hit notes.
Really, though, Amplitude feels like a perfectly acceptable rhythm game. But with a $20 asking price, it feels like it should be somewhat more than acceptable. In fact, if the soundtrack felt more complete compared to the previous game, it probably would be worth more than that asking price. However, with about half of the tracks being in-house and relatively forgettable, it feels like the price is a bit high.
Amplitude has a really solid foundation and if a sort of DLC system for better songs was built, similar to Rock Band, there probably would be a good reason to pick this game up. The style of the previous game has been brought into the HD world and the actual game works well enough. However, the limited soundtrack holds it back heavily. When most people think back to the original Amplitude, they remember the soundtrack almost more than anything else so the lacking soundtrack really will impact your enjoyment of the game. If you have a passing interest in this game, it’s worth looking up the music on YouTube and deciding after you’ve heard it but for most, it won’t be worth the high asking price.
SCORE: 6.0 out of 10
A code for Amplitude was provided to Pixel Related for review.