Last year, Harmonix successfully brought Rock Band back to the stage. There were certainly some issues along the way, but many of them have since been resolved. Harmonix is starting off 2016 with the reboot of Amplitude, a much loved and critically acclaimed title originally on the PS2. Unfortunately, though the game was great back then, it didn’t sell all that well due to it catering to a very particular niche of the music game market. It seems like the reboot of Amplitude is going to go for that same niche appeal.
What Is It?
While most mainstream music games attempt to simulate the experience of playing an instrument, Amplitude is much more abstract and conceptual. At its heart it’s a beat-matching game where you tap buttons in time to the music in order to keep a combo chain going. You’ll move from track to track, tapping out the required notes, collecting and deploying powerups, and basically trying to keep as many plates in the air as you can. That is the mechanical part of the game. The conceptual part comes in the form of a sci-fi cyberpunk story that makes up the game’s campaign mode. Here, you’ll traverse through a series of areas that correspond to the various regions of the human brain. Your goal is to restore the mental functions of a suffering patient. It’s not a long campaign and can be completed in a single sitting. So think of it more as a video game wrapped around a concept album.
Why Should I Care?
As I said earlier, Amplitude is going after a particular niche in the music game audience. The selection of tracks is solidly in the electronic spectrum of music, and it is narrowed even further by being all independent artists and video game music composers. Music is a very subjective thing, so if this particular sub-genre of music doesn’t appeal to you then Amplitude is not going to be for you. You may discover some songs here that you’ve never heard before and enjoy, but don’t expect to see big name artists like Deadmau5 or Daft Punk on the game’s soundtrack.
The soundtrack itself consists of roughly 30 songs. The game doles these out at a measured pace, unlocking new songs as you complete more and more of them. It’s a way of getting a lot of repeat play out of the songs you already have, but it does tend to get tedious after a while. Once you’re done unlocking songs though, that’s really all there is to it. You can play through the campaign again on harder difficulties, play quickplay by yourself, or get together with friends on the couch and play free-for-all or team-based multiplayer.
It’s a good thing then, that the gameplay is just as solid as it was back in 2003. There are a number of tracks to fly your blaster over, while tapping away at a three lane highway of increasingly frantic note combinations, and that’s when Amplitude gets its hooks into you. When you’re playing through a song, you forget about the slim soundtrack and the lack of modes, you’re too busy enjoying the game for what it is. It’s just plain, simple, fun.
What Makes It Worth My Time & Money?
I was dreading writing this part of the review, because the answer to this question really depends on you. If you have fond memories of Amplitude on the PS2, then this reboot is a no-brainer and you should get it.
If you’re a fan of video game music and independent electronic artists then you might enjoy Amplitude as well. If, on the other hand, you’re into online multiplayer, mainstream music, or a soundtrack that spans decades, then Amplitude is not for you. This is a niche game through-and-through. That, in this day and age, is not a bad thing at all.