Now since a couple of months have passed since the onslaught of holiday titles, we are finally getting around to reviewing every piece of software that was put in our lap. I am sorry that I did not review Frequency soon after it released as it is yet another surprise hit for the Playstation 2. Trying to review this game in the traditional sense is not easy due to the design of the game.
Harmonix, Frequency's developer wanted to deliver a music game that departed from the now overused beatmania genre first introduced by Konami a couple of years ago. While those titles were fun at the outset, the numerous follow-ups have had nothing new to offer in terms of gameplay. They were nothing more than musical upgrade tracks. With Frequency, Harmonix took a fresh approach. They imagined what it would be like to take existing tracks of music and break them down into their most basic elements: drums, bass, guitar, synth, vocal and F/X, and then integrate them into a formula whereby you must build each song using all of these elements. The result is a thrilling and compelling rhythm-action game. Naturally the graphics are not the biggest selling point of this game, but they have been well done for this type of experience. Arenas are unlocked as you progress through the game. Each arena is a tunnel shaped tube that you travel down during the stage. Around the entire walls of the tunnel, you will find the elements of the track that you must synch in with the main track. If you can successfully start the bass and move into the synth, both elements will continue playing. The challenge is to keep all of the elements going simultaneously in order to have the entire track playing as it should. Each section of the tunnel requires you to follow specific button push sequences for each element of the track. There are power ups along the way to multiply your score and an auto-catcher which when deployed will catch a panel of notes automatically. The end objective is to score as high as possible by activating more complex patterns than simpler ones. Benchmark scores are set and must be beaten in order to progress to the next level. This entire gameplay mechanism works wonderfully. The button layout of the Dual Shock 2 lends itself nicely to the gameplay.
Harmonix and SCEA should be commended for the lineup of talent they managed to assemble for this rhythm action game. There are 27 licensed pieces of music that span over most dance music genres. Not one of them sounds out of place here. The balance is clearly evident from the likes of The Crystal Method, BT, Roni Size, Orbital, Paul Oakenfold, Fear Factory and more. If you are privileged enough to have a 5.1 setup, this game will definitely rock your walls.
The meat of the game is found in the Game Mode, where you must survive by quickly activating tracks to keep you and the music alive. Score enough points and you will progress through each stage. Perhaps the coolest feature in Frequency is its Remix Mode. Here you have the opportunity to remix samples from the major techno, rock, house, drum 'n' bass, hip hop, trance and turntable stars featured in the game. Once you have finished your remix, you are able to import it into the Game Mode competition. Alternatively, you can organize and play your new creations in the Frequency Jukebox.
Frequency is best described as a hybrid mix in the rhythm action genre. It takes the best elements of Beatmania, PaRappa and MTV Music Generator. The final product is a fine piece of work and a very definite surprise. Whether you are in the market for a new rhythm game or not, make sure you take Frequency for a spin. It is a great alternative to the childish-geared PaRappa 2 or the sometimes too intense Rez.