Frequency (PlayStation 2) review
"Bearing a surprising number of similarities to Parappa the Rapper yet supporting style and substance all its own, Frequency manages to be a breath of fresh air the belongs on your shelf if you're a fan of the narrow genre in which it falls."
Those of you who have been waiting for a worthy music-based game since Parappa the Rapper have been missing the boat if you haven't yet tried Frequency, an odd music title that somehow found its way to store shelves courtesy of Sony. Bearing a surprising number of similarities to Parappa the Rapper yet supporting style and substance all its own, Frequency manages to be a breath of fresh air the belongs on your shelf if you're a fan of the narrow genre in which it falls.
The general idea behind Frequency is that you're a DJ who mixes music. Like a typical DJ (or not), this means speeding through a tunnel of virtual music, all in a quest for that perfect groove.
Gameplay revolves around that general principle. And while I'm not sure a DJ does go through such efforts, Frequency is a fun play just the same. A level is comprised of you starting at the entrance to a tunnel of sorts, which the game cleverly calls an arena (there are numerous arenas you can unlock as you play, but really they're just distracting eye candy that you'll likely dismiss as unimportant). The tunnel is approximately hexagonal in shape, and you can slide along any of the sides. All that sliding takes energy, though. Lots of energy, which can only be replenished by getting sets of music right. A set of music is a string of buttons you must press at the right moment. Typically, this runs between 4 and 12 button presses, at least in the early levels. Get a set right and you get a boost in energy, as well as the score indicated as you are working through it. The general score for a set usually runs between 3 and 12 points, though it can go higher as the difficulty of a set increases.
The real fun in the game is setting up set combos, though. Complete a set and the area ahead of you will clear. If you switch to the correct lane quickly enough, you can almost instantly begin work on that next set. If you picked the right lane and no other sets have started between the one you just finished and the one you're now starting, you'll get twice the score for completing that next set. For example, the new set might have a base value of 6, which is actually quite good in early levels, but now that you're doubling it, the value is actually 12. A little note indicates this as you go. You can as much as quadruple any score, which gets thrilling if you happen to land a set worth 13 points or so.
This is of course very challenging, and also addictive. The beats start out quite simple, but they grow increasingly difficult before you know it. At first when I played, I was having trouble just keeping up my energy long enough to complete a stage. Shortly, though, that ceased to be the problem. Instead, I was worried about building up high enough combos to get high scores. The reason you want high scores is that if you complete stages with stellar points, you get to unlock a bonus song for that stage. Only by completing all the bonus songs can you finish the game on that difficulty level.
Helping you toward those points you need are items you can snag. There are only two of them. One clears a set for you while the other gives you multipliers so that even if you weren't clever enough to build them up on your own, you temporarily have multipliers for the next 3 or so sets you attempt. You still have to land them, of course, or you've wasted the item.
This is all very intriguing, but what about the music to which you're playing? Well, the developers managed a wide variety of tracks, 25 in total, each from a different band. Most of them don't really ring a bell for me, but band names like No Doubt and Fear Factory are familiar. There's also a lengthy track by some guy that helped arrange music for a lot of pop stars. No matter what kind of music you like, it's likely represented here, though it all sounds a bit techno in tone.
When you play, though, you have to listen to a lot of the same music repeatedly. Even on easy, I had a difficult time unlocking everything. It only has 3 stages, and I found when I reached the end that I had to get the bonus songs from each stage to see the ending. So I went back and played a lot of those songs several times. The points required to unlock songs seemed quite excessive. Then I of course had to complete the songs I unlocked, which were fairly tough. Once I finally conquered all the tracks, the lame ending came on the screen and I decided to challenge myself by going up to the next level, at which point the game severely owned me all over again. Even the first track was suddenly as difficult as the last track had been on the easy stage, proof that this game isn't going to give you all that much mercy, even if the developers did kindly include a much-needed tutorial mode.
Something else the developers included is the ability to customize your DJ. This doesn't matter so much, but it's a nice touch, especially if you save your DJ and a friend saves his and then you go head-to-head with your customized DJ's. I made a hilarious one for my wife to use, as you can pick from odd-looking guys and then customize the heck out of them. There are probably hundreds of possible combinations in all, and each is at least slightly amusing. My wife's has a wig and really odd glasses, plus the green face and one eye is bugging. I love it.
As it turns out, there's a lot to love about Frequency. The only real complaint I have is that if like me you only had one Playstation 2 controller about and your other was a really old, pre-Dual Shock Playstation controller, you're going to have to buy another newer controller to experience the multi-player (and in fact, you can play with up to four people if you have a multi-tap). That's a fairly small complaint, though, as even the one-player mode is an extremely addictive experience. The music may grow old after a time, but the gameplay more than makes up for it.
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Staff review by Jason Venter (Date unavailable)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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