After a very successful Kickstarter campaign last year, Harmonix has finally delivered on their new version of Amplitude. Unlike it’s plastic instrumented siblings, Amplitude just requires you and a Dualshock 4 to make sweet sweet dance/techno/electronica together (full disclosure I’m no good at naming music genres).
Amplitude is a follow up to the studio’s first set of popular rhythm games, the original Amplitude and Frequency. The game’s premise is simple to figure out but difficult to master, you know that old cliche. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that you need to hit the correct buttons when the game says to but the hand eye coordination and rhythm needed might cause that scientist to have a mental breakdown. This game is hard, timing needs to be precise, and most of the songs even on medium to lower difficulties go fast.
You pilot a ship moving along different highways corresponding to a different track in the song, like vocals or drums. You need to switch between highways to succeed and not miss notes for higher combos. You get a few options for ship style, which really is just a preference of color, there is no difference in mechanics or anything. There is a story to this game, albeit a small one. The game doesn’t do a good job of spelling it out for you, It just kind of throws you into this scenario where you’re using this ship inside a comatose patient’s mind, or something? Completing songs helps to rebuild this patient’s mind and unlocks new songs.
Remember when I said the game is difficult to master? That’s because my biggest hang up to mastering this game were the controls. The default setup has you using L1, R1, and R2 to hit the notes on screen and the L2 for special modifiers. This control method takes a while to get used to but puts all your fingers on a button. I can see where this could be faster but I didn’t enjoy it, I would constantly be getting confused which finger was to go to which marker during quick succession of notes.. Come to find out there is a control method in the options using the layout of one of my all time favorite rhythm games, Rock Band Blitz. Excitedly I switched to this layout and things felt better but I was still having a rough time, something still felt off. I came to the conclusion that for me, Amplitude using more than two buttons per highway, the way Rock Band Blitz was set up, was starting to confuse my fingers about which button should be hit. I was also not able to see some of the outer highways when I needed to switch, causing me to lose out of combos because I missed a note. This was remedied later after an unlock let me use a different layout to the highways. It wasn’t a perfect solution but it helped.
The song list is very one dimensional to me, after awhile it all sounds like the same electronic music you hear at a dance club. The songs just kind of bled into one another. It’s weird that the one song I can actually remember as standing out was the track they included from Crypt of the Necrodancer. Most of the main songs in the game are done by Harmonix house bands and various artist. If you were a fan of the original Amplitude looking for classic tracks, don’t bother, they aren’t here.
Reading this review may sound like I’m being a bit too negative, but I do enjoy this game. It’s a fun rhythm game that I can just boot up and play without extra plastic instruments. The songs are fun, even if they are difficult and sound similar to one another. There’s even a challenge to the tracks that kept me wanting to hit higher scores. There are leaderboards and seeing that I was besting our own Scott Ellison in most of the songs was very satisfying. Actually last I checked it was all of the ones he’s played, but who’s counting right?
The game isn’t terrible, yet it’s not amazing either. The game can get frustrating but be fun too. It’s very middle of the road and don’t get me wrong, I think this game is good and would recommend it to my friends. I just wish this was more like Rock Band Blitz with more popular licensed songs and just two notes per highway. In fact playing this game made me want to play Rock Band Blitz again. (Hey Harmonix, can that be included in the Xbox One backwards compatibility update, pretty please?)
A pre-release retail PlayStation 4 code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.