Capsule Review: Amplitude

A competent but brief rhythm game with an electronica soundtrack - much of which must be unlocked first.

A rhythm game that - similar to Guitar Hero or Rock Band - represents notes in a song as a series of button prompts scrolling toward the player. The main difference (aside from the fact that Amplitude is played with a standard controller) is that the song’s various instruments (drums, bass, vocals, etc.) are separated into distinct lanes and the player must frequently switch between them and play each part in turn.

The gameplay works fine - there’s a reason Harmonix keeps returning to this well. Focusing individually on each instrument allows for a deep appreciation of the song and a stronger feeling that your actions are continually creating the music. However, the lanes being laid out in a row means that sometimes you’ll have to switch to a lane that’s currently off-screen, which can result in unavoidable combo breaks as you simply don’t have time to see the upcoming notes before you need to react to them.

There are two primary modes - quickplay for any available song and a campaign that has you playing through a fifteen-track concept album. There’s a bit of a story wrapped around the campaign, but it’s thin and mostly just adds to the atmosphere (although for some reason it does cause the visuals to be distorted in the final song, which some players may find raises the difficulty in an unfair-feeling way).

There are thirty songs (plus one exclusive to Kickstarter backers) that are mostly electronica, making the game a bit harder to enjoy for those who aren’t a fan of this genre. And for some reason, many of the songs are initially locked. Playing through the campaign will unlock the fifteen from that album, but most of the remaining fifteen require you to play an arbitrary number of songs before they become available - and these numbers are significantly higher than the number of songs available to you, so you’ll need to replay songs to unlock everything.

The game has a few more tricks to add variety and longevity such as a handful of power-ups with varying effects and a multiplayer mode. These push the gameplay to be a bit more arcade-like, running somewhat counter to the goal of making you feel one with the music, so I personally mostly ignored them.

Amplitude is a small package, rendered smaller by its bizarre decision to lock up most of its songs. But if you enjoy electronica and losing yourself in rhythm game flow, it can be a satisfying experience for as long as it lasts.

I Stopped Playing When: When I first picked this game up, I played a few songs in quickplay because I didn’t want to commit to a fifteen-song campaign. After a few songs, I ran out of available songs and put the game down. A year and a half later I was reminded of the game and came back to play through the campaign and had a decent time. I wanted to play the other songs, but found that most were still locked and even now I’d have to play thirty-eight more songs to get them all - in a game that only has thirty songs counting the ones still locked. This was baffling and rude and I put the game down again.

Docprof's Rating:

Two Stars: Meh. The game has some merit - it probably held my attention for at least an hour or I came back to it for more than one play session. But there wasn't enough draw for me to stick with it for the long haul.

You can get it or learn more here.