Music games have become increasingly popular since the release of Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution, Beatmania, and many others. They’ve started to appear more on consoles, as the console systems have become more powerful and better able to meet the extreme needs of beat-based games. With that comes Frequency, the newest release from Sony and Harmonix Studios. Combining a star laden sound track and freakishly addictive gameplay, Frequency has managed to drain many hours from my life in the last few days.
Graphics in many music games are not the main focus and overall I found Frequency’s graphics to be just above average. Much of the action occurs in a “space tube” that is suspended in the midst of floating visual craziness. There are several arenas to choose from and each one has a different feel. The arena graphics vary slightly depending on your character icon (your FreQ) and the artist performing the current track. The graphics do serve their function very well and after a while I felt that the room was stretching around me. I was pulled into the game by the combination of blinking lights, and pulse pounding sound. Sensory overload at its best.
The sound in Frequency is awesome and the sound engine is very well done. Gameplay revolves around properly triggering samples and the sound engine responds quickly and with little to no lag. I compliment the developers of Frequency for making sure that the sound experience is top-notch. The soundtrack is filled with big name acts including No Doubt, Powerman 5000, and Orbital. Most of the music is very beat heavy and I feel it adds to the overall intensity of the game quite well. The soundtrack is expansive with 25 songs to choose from, an impressive number for any music game. At times I wished that I could pop the CD into my stereo and listen to the music in its non-Frequency form before I mangled it severely. Several other modes allow you to create your own remixes and it goes very far in making sure that the songs don’t become overplayed and repetitive. Frequency is first and foremost an audio experience and the developers have done a great job in making sure that everything sounds magnificent.
Gameplay in Frequency is remarkably simple. It boils down to hitting the right button on the right sample at the right time. Perhaps this simplicity is why Frequency is so addictive. Gameplay is simple but hard at the same time. Much practice is required to do even the basic levels on expert mode. I found it amazing how the same track that you go through on easy becomes impossible in expert mode. The multiple difficulty levels add significantly to the replay value of this game and will make even experienced music gamers struggle to hit all of the combos. There is a spattering of power-ups that help to increase your score and can help clear tracks that you may have problems with. If you have ever played Beatmania, the gameplay is similar but more complex in that there are multiple tracks and multiple sections to contend with. This complexity annoyed me at times because I would get the vocal track going and reach a new section at which point the track would cut out until I restarted it. This is fine for all instrument tracks but it really annoyed me when I switched sections in the middle of the chorus.
Remix modes allow the player to create their own music, and served to remind me how horribly tone-def I really am. I didn’t enjoy this mode much but I appreciate that it exists and am sure that it will find fans. You are able to save your remixes and load them later. You can even turn them into levels, which increases the replayability exponentially. Overall, Frequency is a frantic gameplay experience which will make your thumbs sore, your eyes burn and your ears pound; all classic hallmarks of a good music game.
Frequency can support up to 4 players in split screen mode. It boils down to a race to the finish and the addition of new multiplayer power-ups helps to keep the action interesting. My colleagues and I got into some frantic battles but ultimately it boils down to who has the most natural rhythm and the most hand speed. Some people can only get so good at this game before they reach a plateau. If you have a multitap and a bunch of drummer friends, you can kiss your weekend nights goodbye.
I enjoyed Frequency very much but felt that it didn’t break too much new ground. Frequency implements many good ideas from various places and the combination is quite enjoyable. Production on the game is good and it is very apparent that attention to detail was in the developer's minds. I would have liked to see more imagination, ala Rez, but feel that a comparison may not be entirely fair. Overall, if you are a beat-junkie, then get Frequency, otherwise you may not find it too appealing.