PS2’s Amplitude

Amplitude is a solid music-based video game for the Playstation 2. Though overshadowed by the enormously popular Dance Dance Revolution, Amplitude offers an exciting and different take on a growing genre.

Shifting the focus away from rhythm, Amplitude emphasizes musical phrasing and makes players build the song, track by track. Set in a futuristic game world, players (called Freqs) fly what looks like a spaceship along the selected song, shooting “notes” as they approach with the corresponding buttons. No points are awarded for hitting individual notes; entire phrases of a track must be completed.

The tracks themselves typically consist of percussion, synths, bass, guitar, effects and vocals, and as the player must listen to each part to accurately complete the phrases, gamers will probably find themselves appreciating how the tracks complement each other and enhance the music.

Compared to other, more rhythm-based games, Amplitude offers a broader musical palette that includes David Bowie, Garbage, Blink 182, Pink and Herbie Hancock, but it’s the less mainstream musicians that really shine in this game; Freezepop, DJ HMX, and Dieselboy/Kaos, among others, offer excellent and hook-laden songs.

Visually, Amplitude is interesting, if not impressive. The sci-fi backgrounds are nicely detailed and varied, but after seeing them a few times the player will probably concentrate more on shooting notes.

Player avatars are exaggerated and customizable; face, headgear, torso, and legs can be taken from a handful of pre-made characters, so if a female character with monstrous, muscular arms is what the gamer wants, it’s easily doable. The avatar sits in a corner on single-player mode, moving to the beat and playing the track’s instrument when notes are shot correctly.

Most music-based games have no real plot, and this game is no exception. Single-player mode takes the gamer through a linear sequence of songs, eventually facing the “boss” song that must be finished to move on to the more challenging next level. After collecting enough points in each stage, a bonus song is unlocked.

If players grow tired of the songs, the included Remix mode allows them to do just that — remix the song. Going through each section of the song, gamers can arrange notes any way they see fit, and can make the tracks rhythmic behemoths or stripped-down versions of the originals. Harmonies and leads can even be altered, so songs can be as clashing as the player likes. After saving a remix, it can be played through in Custom mode.

Amplitude offers a lot of single-player fun, but what about multiplayer? Up to four people can go head-to-head in Game Mode, which is much like the one-player version, except competition for finishing tracks is heated, and the player with the highest score wins. Power-ups let players boot each other from tracks or even engage the controller’s vibration features, disorienting the victim. Duel mode lets rivals take turns creating difficult note patterns for one another to follow, and multiplayer Remix mode lets everyone join in on the remixing.

Gamers and Dance Dance Revolution addicts looking for a refreshing change should pick up Amplitude, if for nothing else than some great music.

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