The FreQ of the industry.
Every once in a while you’ll come across something that looks like a game, sounds
like a game, is dressed like a game, but just really isn’t a game. The
last “thing” I can remember that did this was the infamous Spice
World for the PSX. While wearing the trendiest plastic wrap complete with
a full $40 price tag, this piece of crap
somehow found its way into Playstations around the globe.
It seems I’ve discovered another one of these non-games. It’s definitely not
a piece of crap, though I’m not exactly sure what to call it. But seeing as
how you’ve already taken a comfy seat with your Cool Ranch Doritos and frosty
can of Mountain Dew, I’ll give it a shot.
Frequency for the Playstation 2 is an 8-track mixing board disguised
as a game. It kind of looks like a rhythm game ala Parappa the Rapper,
but probably would feel more at home in a studio with two
turntables and a microphone. The object is simple. Little dots float by
and you’ve got to catch them in the “activator” by pressing the appropriate
buttons at the appropriate time. Do it correctly, and you’ll be rewarded with
notes from a catchy electronica, rock, or hip hop tune. Successfully hit enough
notes in a row and you’ll activate a few bars. Mess up and your energy meter
will begin to deplete.
Two powerups are also thrown in to help you out. Successfully gain an auto-catcher
and you’ll be able to turn on a track with the push of a single button. There’s
also a multiplier pickup that will double your points.
The game arena is octagonal with each side representing a certain part of
the song. Bass, synth, vocals, and more are all represented on their own panel.
There’s even a scratch and axe panel if you feel like adding a personal touch.
Once you’ve successfully completed a track, just hop to another and start dishing
out a different part of the tune. Basically, the game allows you to play around
with the different layers of each song. It’s definitely a cool idea.
Frequency also has a multiplayer mode that pits you and a friend in
musical combat. A few extra powerups are available, but the point is still the
same. Score more points and you’ll earn all the rhythmic bragging rights on
In addition to the regular game, you’ll also find Remix mode. Probably the
best thing about Frequency, Remix mode allows you to remix any of the
game’s songs any way you like with no strings attached. It really takes some
playing around with to get the hang of it all, but with a little time and energy,
you’ll be able to recreate your own version of a song. You can place notes where
you want, add any track you want, and even throw in effects like echo and stutter.
Best of all, you’ll be able to save your creation and play it back at your next
big party. Mortimer, Gertrude, and Olaf will never know the difference.
Joe Gamer probably won’t recognize the majority of the artists featured in the
game, but those of you interested in the underground music scene may find some
pleasant surprises. From the drum & bass of Roni Size to the scratch mastery
of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz’s own Q-BERT, you’ll find a variety of tunes off
the beaten path. Just don’t expect to find any Blink 182 or other mainstream
video game bands here.
The biggest problem with Frequency is that it just isn’t much fun.
The technical details and the things you can do in Remix mode are very cool,
but they feel much more like something you would find in a mixing program than
a Playstation 2 game. I would rather sit around and tweak the music with no
restrictions rather than be bound by the endless sea of dots.
Not helping matters are visuals that might just make you sick. Eight arenas
represent “musical cyberspace” and they all look like the result of a bad acid
trip. I guess if you were on ecstasy it would be cool, but then again, you wouldn’t
be able to do more than stare at the pretty colors. Plus drugs are bad, mmmmkay?
Even if you’re perfectly drug-free, you’ll need to keep your eyes glued to
the screen. “Notes” come fast and furious (songs can reach up to 180 bpms) and
simply blinking can cause you to fail. In one particularly challenging set,
I actually had a contact lens spring forth from my eyeball, never to be seen
again. I guess it just saw the opportunity for escape and went for it. Beware,
contact lens wearers, after Frequency you may never see them again”
If you’re interested in the art of music mixing, Frequency‘s Remix
mode is a good introduction. It allows you to take an active part in the music
you listen to and gives you mixing powers beyond those of mortal men. As a game
though, this note is a little flat.