Let me tell you a story about how addictive Amplitude is: The first time I played my plan was to make it through the tutorial and the first level before turning it off as my girlfriend and I were going to watch The Green Mile that night. I ended up playing “one more level” until 2am, well after she had decided to go to bed. I still haven’t seen The Green Mile, and I am a terrible boyfriend, but I got some pretty sweet scores on Amplitude. Swings and roundabouts.
Amplitude is just pure, addictive fun.
Amplitude comes from Harmonix, those guys that had everybody and their Mum jumping around the living room clicking and clacking on the insanely popular ‘Baby’s First Guitar’ in the 2000s. Now imagine that, but instead of playing the notes on a guitar, you’re shooting them from a spaceship. Hopefully this doesn’t make everyone think they’re a good pilot or something.
A reboot (if you can call it that) of the original FreQuency/Amplitude games on the PS2, this new version of Amplitude has been given a fresh lick of paint for the current generation PlayStation, and that’s pretty much it. It’s very much the same game from 13 years ago, and that’s not a bad thing. The controls are responsive and the gameplay is satisfyingly rewarding, especially on the fast paced higher difficulties. Each song has multiple lanes representing each instrument, and you have to jump between them and keep as many instruments playing for as long as you can. Since getting the game I haven’t really been able to put it down, and I’ve noticed myself making significant progress through songs I couldn’t dream about finishing a few days ago. Kind of like getting better at an instrument. There have been a few times I’ve said aloud to myself “Did you fucking see that?!” after pulling off an insane roll of notes without expecting to. And yes, I did fucking see that.
The game is split into two modes: Quickplay and Campaign. In Quickplay, you can play the songs you’ve unlocked again and again in an effort to perfect them and rack up some high scores. You can also battle with up to four friends in local multiplayer, using various stage altering and ship damaging power ups to mess with your opponents in an effort to hit more notes than they do. My time with the multiplayer hasn’t been as extensive as I’d like due to it being local only and me not having many friends, but the one match I did play with my reluctant girlfriend seemed like it could be fun if I was playing with someone who cared even a little bit so that’s a plus.
The Campaign mode is the means to unlocking more songs for Quickplay. There is also a story to the campaign, told over the course of 15 songs through lyrics, menus and voice-overs. A playable concept album. Now, I’m a sucker for concept albums, and the songs telling the stories range from good to amazing, but I don’t think a video game is the best way to consume the medium. Fortunately, the songs work really well as individual stages. There aren’t really any bad tracks in the game. Of course, that’s completely subjective, but I’ve found myself loving the fast paced, sludgey, electronic tracks and having the slower, catchier, more melodic tracks stuck in my head for most of the day. The campaign versions of the songs also contain more obstacles than their Quickplay counterparts. There are Multiplier Barriers which will let you through without damage if you match the 2x, 3x or 4x requirement, which is a fun and fair challenge. In the final level, however, there is a blur effect that goes over the whole screen that kind of makes it feel a little unfair, especially on the hardest song of the Campaign. For an effect that is only used once, in one quarter of one song, it felt a little cheap and unnecessary.
Aside from the main campaign tracks, which are all composed in-house by the talented people at Harmonix, there are also a number of bonus tracks to unlock for you to slave over in Quickplay, featuring guest appearances from notable indie game composers, including Danny Baranowski (Super Meat Boy), Jim Guthrie (Sword & Sorcery), and Darren Korb (Bastion) among others. There are also songs from various Kickstarter backers of the game which I thought was a nice touch. The songs they’ve provided are pretty good too, so that helps. Unfortunately, there aren’t any licensed tracks in the game. After my initial playthrough of the campaign, I couldn’t stop thinking of all the songs I’d love to see in future DLC for the game. It’s a Harmonix game, so obviously there will be some brilliant licensed additions in the near future. I can’t wait.
All in all, Amplitude is a thoroughly enjoyable game and well worth the £15.99 price mark. I know it’s going to keep me entertained for hours on end as I try to beat my own score and others’ over and over again. The music is mostly fantastic, even if the lack of licensed tracks is a little disappointing. If you like electronic music, leaderboard battles and concept albums, you should seriously consider buying Amplitude today.