Harmonix is back with their crowd-funded revival of the cult classic PS2 rhythm game Amplitude, this time for the PS3 and PS4 with new and exclusive songs, as well as a campaign mode and four-player local multiplayer. Unfortunately, the just over 30 songs on offer are some of the weakest in the genre.
A spaceship races down lanes as notes approach it requiring the player to press one of three corresponding face or shoulder buttons—whichever you prefer—to shoot them causing that section of music to play. Players can press left or right to snap between different lanes; each represents various instruments of a song, be it drums, synth, vocals, etcetera; by doing this, players can essentially decide when each instrument comes into the song. This feature is especially noticeable at the beginning of the song when every section is typically available, but by the end of the song, it seems that every instrument is playing regardless, and your decisions don't make much of a difference.
Amplitude offers four different difficulties, but the jump between each seems a bit extreme. Playing on beginner, the lowest difficulty, makes notes approach at a snail’s pace, and they are few and far between. Meanwhile intermediate amps up the number of notes and speed a bit too much to feel like what should be the normal difficulty. Advanced and Expert difficulties live up to their name, with expert requiring nearly a button press per note in the song. Those looking for a challenge will certainly be pleased with the difficulties on offer while casual rhythm game players may not find a comfortable difficulty level without some practice first.
The campaign mode features 15 songs made for the game by Harmonix that are supposed to tell the story of a ship traveling through the mind of a comatose patient, attempting to awaken her while also expanding her perceptions. The problem is that you'd never know that if it weren't for the description on the main menu. Sure, at the start of some songs is some dialog that sounds like it is between a couple of doctors or scientists, but it is so brief and disjointed that it doesn't do much to foster anything resembling a story. Some of the songs have lyrics that seem a bit related to the story, but only by word association to things related to being in a coma.
None of the over 30 songs are all that memorable, often sounding a bit too similar to each other. The 15 songs from the campaign are especially guilty of this, though if they were a concept album on their own, it might be passable. They certainly won't make you want to replay the campaign. You may not have a choice, though, as to unlock at least four of the songs on offer, you've got to perform well on each song in the campaign, and if you mess up, the only options are to replay the entire campaign or miss out on songs.
The other songs can be unlocked via playing certain numbers of songs, with the final song requiring 60 plays. 60 plays means almost playing every song on offer, twice. An odd design decision from the very same developers that let players access every song from the start in its recently released Rock Band 4. Perhaps this was just done to extend the game, as it sure feels that way.
Multiplayer is somehow even less exciting than playing solo and is only available locally and only in the quickplay mode. Instead of the playing field twisting a bit, it stays flat and centred due to the camera staying centred. Cooperative play is more distracting than fun, as crossing paths with other players can easily lead to some confusion about who is who due to ships looking similar. Competitive play fairs a bit better, offering weapons to annoy the opposing players with abilities such as distorting their lanes.
While only $20, Amplitude doesn't have enough on offer to be worthwhile. Multiple design decisions were seemingly made to extend the already shallow playtime, the campaign isn't all that interesting, the multiplayer is one of the worst in the rhythm genre, and worst of all the music is dull. Fans of the original Amplitude would be better served to dig out their original PS2 copies that at least had recognizable music; this is one beat they can afford to skip.