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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Amplitude Review: Back and All Shiny

An old friend and I spent all day and night unlocking all the songs the second I got a review code for the game we played out of high school, Amplitude. Amplitude is back, all shiny and new in HD. The colors popped on screen, the beats dropped faste as our ships shot up tracks. Then I lost to him, the monster, let's play it past midnight for my revenge. I need two more friends for four player, stat.

Amplitude was once a PS2 title, now and after some delay it's back again, skipping a system (for now), to come back to us on the PS4. You must blast beats or little diodes on screen in conjunction with the music on sci-fi spacecrafts. Songs are broken down to their base components from drums to vocals, synths and so on. Complete a track and you'll hear that part of the song, mess-up and the song will be lacking part of its groove. You earn more points by stringing the different parts of the song together without a break in-between. So you have to switch from track to track fairly fast, keep up.

The new Streak Seeking may help as you'll instantly be put on the next available track to continue the song. This is a major difference from the old game as you had to go through other tracks, some that may be out, to get to a track that's lit-up and ready to be played.

You have limited energy to blast beats, if you mess up too much or don't make it to a half-way point station that fills up your energy the song ends and you lose. Now skill and replay comes in as you want to get better and faster with pressing buttons in sync with the songs. Different skill levels of finger kung-fu on the controller make you want to master shooting up the tracks.

From a veteran, I have my PS2 hooked up to compare the original game, you can't deny the upgrades and overhaul of the game. What else can we say, but HD graphics, it's like spanning being at electric carnival minus all the annoying people crowding you. The colors the whiz by with the music, it all clicks together. There's new graphics that make tracks disintegrate before you and other nice polishes. It's a neon wunderland of what the!

Power-ups for combat, and yes the game is up to four-player local co-op with many way to play. Let's talk multi-player before combat real quick. You have the following options: Team Play, co-operative, so matches can be 1 vs. 2, 1 vs. 3, and 2 vs. 2 matches. Or everyone for themselves and that's where I love amplitude, trying to beat my friends at it.

Back to the renamed power-ups, Score-Doubler is now Multiplier and sits comfy on the back of your ship until used, pressing the X button will release it's power to multiply your score. Same goes for all the other power-ups. Slow-Mo and Autoblaster are back, Slow-Mo, now goes by Sedate, it still slows down the game and Autoblaster new, known as Cleanse, takes out an opponents track taking away their chances of a high score and earning you some points. Sedate, is like having a DJ just take the song for a nice little break, helping you to hit hard button combos and getting a new way of hearing the song. The new Freestyler, Flow, is nowhere as fun as the games last two. You'll spin around freely with a rainbow rocket trail trying to cover the track so the other players can't see ahead. The visuals in the older game were just nicer. Best use Flow, when your points are multiplied to by 8, to get a huge amount of points in just a few seconds.

* Points are multiplied by twos, so it's 2,4,6, and 8 times whatever points you're earning on a track if you successfully streak song tracks together.

Bumper is now an instant transporter, use in on an enemy ship to have them instantly transported to another track. It does mess with you and your opponent to suddenly appear somewhere else on screen. The new Crippler has the track of the poor victim of it's cruelty look like it's going through a temporal, chronal electric time storm, something bad really like on Star Trek or Doctor Who. Can you see the tracks at all?

For the older player, you can now get these power-ups by completing the track in front of them, not just hitting a few buttons with their symbols to unlock them to play. They'll pop-up on screen frequently in multiplayer games and in the regular once you unlock them all.

Frequently you may switch to FreQuency mode. The predecessor to Amplitude was FreQuency and instead of the flat track we use to today the tracks were in a tunnel. Just a change up of modes in the options menu for a once and a while different style of play.

Campaign Mode's... story is silly. I played Laserlife this year, which is also a music beat game whose story has you resurrecting the memories of a dead astronaut. The story, and how you unlock more of the games songs is similar as your trying to wake up someone in a coma. I'm saying the idea of waking up a coma victim or unlocking stuff in the brain with trippy visuals is a very common idea, so common that it doesn't work here as being anything worth of an award. It does succeed in making me laugh. You hear doctors debating waking up "Sarah" and being petty before songs start in campaign mode, and it's just so laughable. I would have loved it if they made it funny on purpose and went with something like someone needed to get a big poop out or throw up some ecstasy, so they don't die at a concert. You're not Rez, Amplitude, you were never Rez.

You aren't my Amplitude either, the fifteen song in-house soundtrack is missing voice. The soundtrack suffers from a lack of vocals and record label artists. I know the game was made much cheaper than usual, but couldn't there have been some negotiation with more artists.  We have fifteen others songs to go through, but many lack any voice, literally, I'm not sure why only indie game songs were chosen with nothing to sing along with.

So few of the tracks captured me like the old game that had Garbage and Weezer and we could go back and debate, the price of the game and the team put on the this title, but still I'm not sure how much they pushed themselves at Harmonix for more music. There's such a huge stream of indie artists who would have loved to have their quirky song put in this game. At it's worst, it's not the greatest album ever.

The original game... had more. Though HD is nice, the care that each song got with it's own specialized track is not here or Avatars called Freqs which had parts to unlock through more plays. Harmonix's silence on any talk of DLC, paid or free is also concerning, they do it all the time with Guitar Hero and Rock Band.

Amplitude is back, it could have been better, but it's still fun. When a game between you and your friends gets going in the soundscape and bizarre power-ups push you to the limit when you're trying to string tracks together, it feels like home. It feels like it's name as you push yourself to get to the techno/cyborg sun thing at the end. Amplitude, the music game that's a blast!

*For backers who paid $100 on the Kickstarter there's a bonus song, Do Not Retreat from Komputer Kontroller and a new vehicle type, Twista in green.

Amplitude for PS4, eventually PS3 
Releases January 5, 2016,  $19.99

Reviewer was given copy by publisher for review purposes. I did support the Kickstarter too.

All songs in game

  • "All The Time" - C418
  • "Assault on Psychofortress" - Single White Infidel
  • "Astrosight" - Inter:sect Ft. Noelle LeBlanc & Naoko Takamoto
  • "Break for Me" - James Landino Ft. Noelle LeBlanc
  • "Concept" - Symbion Project
  • "Crazy Ride" - Insomniac Games
  • "Crypteque (1-2)" - Danny Baranowsky
  • "Crystal" - George & Jonathan
  • "Dalatecht" - Harmonix
  • "Decode Me" - Inter:sect Ft. Noelle LeBlanc & Naoko Takamoto
  • "Digital Paralysis" - Harmonix
  • "Do Not Retreat" - Komputer Kontroller
  • "Dreamer" - Harmonix
  • "Energize" - Harmonix
  • "Entomophobia" - M-Cue
  • "Force Quit" - Jim Guthrie
  • "Human Love" - Harmonix
  • "I.C.U." - Harmonix
  • "Impossible" - Darren Korb
  • "Lights" - Wolfgun
  • "Magpie" - Harmonix
  • "Muze (Amplitude Remix)" - Ingrid Lukas, Remix by Patrik Zosso and Nik Bärtsch
  • "Perfect Brain" - Harmonix
  • "Phantoms" - Freezepop
  • "Recession" - Jeff Allen Ft. Noelle LeBlanc & Naoko Takamoto
  • "Red Giant" - Kodomo
  • "Supraspatial" - Jeff Allen Ft. Naoko Takamoto
  • "Synthesized" - Symbion Project
  • "Unfinished Business" - Shiohito Taki & Junichi Kamiunten
  • "Wayfarer" - Harmonix
  • "Wetware" - Harmonix