Amplitude is one of those games that is a lot of fun to play, but hard to describe. Explaining games that are hard to describe is what we reviewers are paid to do, though, so I'll give it my best shot. Before I get into that let me first say that Amplitude is a sequel to Frequency, and if you've played Frequency then you will already have a really good idea of how Amplitude works as the basic gameplay has remained the same.
Amplitude is a puzzle game of sorts that requires as much skill with rhythm and timing as it does puzzle solving strategy, if not more so. You are in control of a spaceship that flies over a set of tracks that correspond to the musical tracks in a song. One track corresponds to the drum line, one to bass, one to vocals, etc. As you fly over a track you'll pass over a set of notes which can appear in one of three rows. When one of your targeting reticules passes over a note, you can fire the corresponding weapon to hit the note and cause it to be played. Successfully complete a sequence of notes grouped into a phrase and you'll unlock that section of track, causing it to be played along with the background music. A track only plays for a short while after which you'll need to hit the next sequence to unlock it again. If you miss a note, it will cost you some of your ship's energy and you'll have to start the phrase over or jump to a new track. Play continues until you finish a song or run out of energy.
|Playing the guitar track.|
Your performance on a song is scored based on the number of sequences that you complete. The more notes in a sequence, the more points it is worth. Completing successive sequences will award you with score multipliers that will let you rack up the points as long as you don't miss a note. Also along the tracks are bonus power-ups that let you double your score, instantly clear a track, or jump way above the tracks to do some freestyle scratching.
The game is not just about reaction times. You don't have long to jump from one track to another to catch the right phrase, so there is a puzzle element to each level in determining the best path through the song so that you don't miss phrases or power-ups.
The game has several skill levels that control the pace of the game by increasing the number of notes you'll need to hit in each phrase. The game is very challenging at the highest level, with the notes on the track having a one to one correspondence with the notes playing in the song. They'll be spaced quite closely in spots and will really challenge your reflexes. You don't need to be musically inclined to play the game, but at the higher levels it really helps if you can get into the rhythm of the song instead of trying to think about the buttons that you are pressing.
The game also ramps up the difficulty as you make your way through the campaign by adding twists and turns to the tracks. Early in the campaign the tracks are like a desert highway, long and straight. Later on you'll begin to see twists and turns and eventually "hills" that progressively reduce the number of notes that you can see coming at a time. Again it helps to get into the rhythm of the music instead of relying entirely on watching the approaching notes.
Songs are collected into groups of three in "arenas". Completing all three tracks in an arena unlocks a "boss track" which is basically another track that's a bit harder than the other three in the arena. Complete the boss track and you'll unlock the next arena. Each arena also has a bonus track that can be unlocked if your cumulative score on the other four tracks is high enough.