Amplitude (Not a) Review

Originally published on Trevor Trove on January 21, 2016

TL; DR(eview that’s not a review) – Amplitude is a small, fun, and engaging rhythm game even if the soundtrack is all a little bit same-y.

Sometimes I find myself playing a game that I want to share some thoughts on, but not enough to provide a full blown Review. I’m calling these types of posts “(Not a) Reviews.” For my first (Not a) Review, I’m looking at the recent PlayStation 4 reboot of Amplitude.

Up front (and one of the reasons I’m not really interested in giving the game a proper review), I never really got into the rhythm games of yore. There was a week or so when I borrowed my sister’s copy of Guitar Hero 2 and guitar for about a week but it was nothing more than a flash in the pan for me. I never really had roommates during my college years so that experience that I hear so many people talk about of having their own little regular Rock Band group is a foreign concept to me.

Needless to say, I have no reference point for the original PlayStation 2 version of Amplitude but the PlayStation 4 reboot hit right here at the beginning of the year. Right now, I’m bouncing around with a ton of different flavors: revisiting some of my comfort food games like Final Fantasy VII and Dark Cloud now that they’re on PS4, building up all of my LEGO Dimensions sets and playing through a bit more of those levels, catching up on highly acclaimed 2015 games I missed (Life is Strange and Undertale are at the top of my to-play list), and trying out some of the 2016 releases like Gone Home and Oxenfree.

Despite not being a huge rhythm gamer, I was a drummer growing up so I do enjoy music and liked what I heard from the game. So I decided to sit down with it for a few hours. I really just played through the main campaign on the beginner level to get a feel for it.

I enjoyed what I played well enough. The idea of having to activate the different audio tracks was a lot of fun. I found myself almost always setting the Drums track first so I could follow the beat. On the beginner mode, I actually found the sparsity of notes to be more challenging than if I were playing around with a more heavily populated track, but the switching between audio tracks was taking enough getting used to that I didn’t really feel like upping the difficulty. Besides, I was playing to relax and enjoy the music, not to throw my controller against a wall or give myself carpal tunnel syndrome.

I can absolutely appreciate the appeal people would find in playing through to master the harder difficulties and chase the top of the leaderboards. But that’s not for me. So I very much viewed my investment in the game as a CD I purchased where I got to mix and match the tracks. The songs were all enjoyable even if I didn’t get an overwhelming sense of variety in what I was listening to and visually the game was very pretty to look at. I even enjoyed the trippy-technicolor-on-acid feel of the last few songs in the campaign, despite the fact that it makes following along with the tracks and button prompts unavoidably more difficult.

I didn’t touch the multiplayer but the game seems like it would be a great couch co-op experience. Some of the criticism I’ve seen is directed at players being unable to alter individual difficulties but I’m curious as to how they think that would work when all players are competing on the same tracks to get the best score. If I were to play on easy and my friend were to play on hard, the tracks would constantly need to adjust as we switched from one to the other, which would make it impossible to gauge where either one of us would want to go next.

Anyway, all in all I would recommend the game if you’re looking for a fun and dynamic rhythm game and don’t mind the song selections kind of all sounding the same (it really is the video game equivalent of a concept album).

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