Available on PlayStation 4
There used to be music games that didn’t involve plastic guitars or microphones. It’s shocking, I know. Whether you’re too young to remember or the thought has simply vanished into the forgotten past, the concept is different than what we’re used to these days. But that doesn’t mean those music games were less complex or less fun to play —to the contrary, actually. Amplitude is one of those games.
Originally released for the PlayStation 2 in 2003, Amplitude got a chance for a remake after a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014. The game is developed by Harmonix, the same developers of the original Guitar Hero and Rock Band. The remake took longer than originally promised on Kickstarter, but it was worth the wait. The game is beautiful and fun.
Music games don’t ever really have a story and the same is true of Amplitude. There’s a vague notion that various areas of your brain are being modified by each level of the game. But that’s not really important at all. The gameplay has you controlling a ship, called a beat blaster. You use this ship to shoot colored diamonds that scroll toward you when you press specific buttons in time to the music. Levels are separated into five paths, each of which corresponds to a segment of the song—vocals, drums, etc. If you’ve played the PlayStation Portable version of Rock Band, Rock Band Unplugged, you’ll recognize the track-switching gameplay.
In Amplitude, you can switch between the paths at any time, but if you successfully hit all of the nodes for a segment of the path, that path will clear out for a time, allowing you to focus on the other paths. You have an energy meter that will drop if you miss too many button presses, and you can collect boosts to help you out. It’s fairly easy to go through the “campaign” mode and you’ll unlock new songs along the way. Playing those songs on various difficulties in quickplay will unlock even more songs.
Amplitude is set in a beautiful ethereal landscape with bright colors on the paths and in the background. The paths twist and turn through this landscape as you move through the song. And the game is fun in the same way Rock Band or its peers are fun. In fact, in Amplitude you can see the beginnings of the gameplay concepts found in Rock Band.
The game also includes a really fun multiplayer mode where you and up to three other players share the same set of paths and try to outscore each other. You can pick up special boosts in this mode that can blow your opponent’s ship off a path or distort the path in a way that makes it hard to get the timing right. I had a lot of fun playing this mode even though I lost by a large margin in each game.
Overall, Amplitude is a gorgeous game that shows you what music games used to look like. You’ll find that at its roots the gameplay isn’t terribly different from modern music games. That makes it a satisfying musical game experience without the costs of decking out your home with plastic peripherals.