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Frequency
Review By:  Joshua Fishburn
Developer:  Harmonix
Publisher:  Sony
# of Players:  1-4
Genre:  Rhythm
ESRB:  Everyone
Online:  Yes (demo)
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  4-10-03

I’d like to start with a story about the first time that I played Frequency. I actually first experienced it on Sony’s online demo disk a little less than a year after the game’s release. After playing one of the easier levels, I noticed the TV screen pulsing and distorting hypnotically. Hmmm, I thought, and checked the cables on my TV to make sure it was hooked up correctly. After ruling out all else, I realized that I had not blinked through the whole song and that the crazy backgrounds in Frequency were causing my eyes to play tricks on me. Other tricks played on you by Frequency include: convincing you to play "one more song" (ad infinitum), inducing a Zen-like state on a regular basis when you start to get really good, and convincing you that you are a music god. Oh, one more thing: Frequency has convinced most publications, games and otherwise, that it is a genius game. I must admit that I am on the same wavelength.

Why is it genius? Like all the great games throughout history, it is easy to learn, but difficult to master. It has a simple set of rules that lead to infinite possibilities. Most importantly, it is a lot of fun! Frequency’s control scheme is interesting, but not totally unique. If you have played any sort of music game before (Parappa the Rapper, Um Jammer Lammy, DDR) then you’ll quickly have the basic idea of this game. The gameplay consists of an "activator" that you maneuver through an octagonal tunnel, with each side representing a different instrument track. These instrument tracks are song dependent, much like the various button presses in Parappa. On each track you have three different sounds. There are blue gems that come by on each section (left, middle, and right): you just need to hit the right button as your activator passes over the gem. There are also powerups, along with special freestyle tracks that you can access after clearing all the regular tracks in a given section of the song. Sound complicated? Don’t worry; you’ll pick it up in a snap.

Where Frequency starts to really deviate from the pack is the freedom to decide your path. By allowing you to switch freely between the instrument tracks, you are not simply memorizing the beats to a song (although that is part of it); you are trying to find the most effective path through the song and are mixing the song at the same time. Along the way, you will encounter tracks with powerups. By completing these tracks you acquire the powerup, either an auto-catcher or multiplier. The auto-catcher, when used on a track, captures that track for you instead of forcing you to complete it. The multiplier gives you a x3 score multiplier on top of your current multiplier, all the way up to a maximum multiplier of x6.

In the multi-player (up to 4 players) versus mode, powerups are added that allow you to interact with your opponents by stealing their cleared tracks, bumping them off a track, or screwing up their view of the action. On top of this, Frequency has a remix mode that allows you to take your favorite song, use its sounds, and craft a new remix of that song. Up to 4 people can remix on the same song simultaneously, making for some pretty crazy musical collisions. You can even take your remixed tracks and play them in the regular game mode. Frequency’s online component is also excellent. By booting up Sony’s online demo disk you can swap in the original Frequency disk to access all the songs for play online. Frequency was originally planned to have inherent online capabilities, but was released long before Sony’s network adapter. The interface is friendly and there is always information about what you are getting yourself into before you give the go-ahead. You can play the same multiplayer modes online that you can off, so meet up with people online for a remix, or challenge some superFreqs to a battle. The only faults I could find with the online interface are that it is a little sparse and there is no ranking system.

I enjoyed almost all of the music in Frequency. Some of the harder sounding tracks were not my kind of music, but there is plenty to satisfy someone who even remotely likes techno music. Among the artists featured are Orbital, The Crystal Method, No Doubt, Roni Size, Fear Factory, Juno Reactor, and Symbion Project. The music selection is quite varied, with some heavy metal sounding tracks, to more ambient techno like Orbital, to funky beats, to hip-hop.

Frequency’s style is also worth mentioning. It uses a lot of green and blue to achieve a very hip, geometric look. The first thing you do when you start playing Frequency is create a "Freq". Your Freq is a graphic logo you create from some interesting stamps that serves as your persona in the game, both off and online. There are plenty of pre-made Freqs to select from, but I had a lot of fun making mine and recommend that you do the same. You can also choose from multiple arenas to play in. The arena basically defines what kinds of things are going on in the background outside of your playing tunnel. The backgrounds will change depending on your Freq and the song you are playing.

Another area where Frequency excels at is replay value. The game is insanely difficult, sometimes to the point of frustration. You really need to put in your time in practicing to advance. The good side of this coin is that when you finally succeed at each stage, you are rewarded with hearing the song come together. Also, once you can keep your multiplier up and accumulate a high score, you can open up new songs to play and new arenas to play in. Then there is the remix mode, which I mentioned before. This gives the game almost infinite replay value. If you get bored of any of that, play some people online.

HIGHS:

  • Gives the music game genre an innovative kick
  • Slick styling
  • Awesome music
  • Fun, challenging, and ADDICTIVE
  • A riot with multiple players
  • Remix mode!

LOWS:

  • Can be overly difficult at times
  • You might tire of the game if you don’t dig the music

FINAL VERDICT:

I could go on and on about this game, and have, to many people. It is THE game in my PS2 collection that gets weekly attention. It is a difficult game. I still play it because I keep setting challenges for myself to beat. I FINALLY beat the game after about 4 months of playing, but there is infinite replay value with the remixes and online play. You really can’t go wrong with this game unless you are easily frustrated or really don’t like the music. The remix mode is engrossing on your own, but becomes absolutely addictive with more than one. Addictive is the word, in general, to describe this game. You will keep coming back and trying to beat the high scores! You will become a dedicated Freq!

Overall Score: 9.1

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