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frequency_4-01.jpg (11451 bytes)I am constantly looking for new gaming experiences. Sure, the systems have gotten more advanced, but the increased processor power has had little effect on the kinds of games we play. For instance, I was playing Rogue Leader on the Gamecube the other day, and I found myself both in awe and a little underwhelmed at the same time. It was incredible to look at, but it was pretty much like any other space shooter I’ve played-- only bigger. Every time I get a new game and pop it into one of my systems, I’m hoping to see something that I’ve never seen before. This is what happened when I booted up Frequency for the first time. The problem that I’m facing as a reviewer is that this game defies description. Frequency has no gaming precedent that I’m aware of. It’s a completely new experience.

frequency_2-01.jpg (13024 bytes)Now, I know that just because something is new doesn’t necessarily make it interesting or entertaining. That’s just not the case with Frequency. The pace of the game starts out easily enough. The first few levels of Frequency almost give you a false sense of confidence. To the untrained, it might seem that the game is too easy, but the more you play, the more you will get a sense of the underlying strategies that you’ll have to master in order to really maximize your scores for each level.

scrndump_14-01.jpg (13729 bytes)I’ve tried explaining the game to some of my friends, but I can never find the right words to effectively lay out the game. Invariably whenever I try to outline the game, I find myself tapping my foot in time with a drumbeat in my head.

Your goal on each level is to activate as many tracks as possible on a given song as you’re flying through psychedelic corridors that look a little like Tron on acid. Already, you’re saying, "I don’t understand." No review that I’ve read has really been able to convey what this game is, but I’m determined to do my best. As you’re flying down these corridors, icons representing notes or beats pass under your ‘activator.’ You’re goal is to press the corresponding button on your controller to activate the music. After you’ve activated enough notes in a row, the entire track begins to play. Are you still with me? Once one track has been activated you then move onto another. For instance, after you’ve activated the drum track, you might go on to activate the vocals or the bass. The game also has some free mixing modes as well as multi-player options. The multi-player aspect of the game could make it one of the ultimate party games.

frequency_1-01.jpg (13880 bytes)You’re not going to find a review that does a better job of describing the game. Even the manual that comes with the game failed to give me any real sense of how the game is actually played. You need to sit down with it for about fifteen minutes to get a real sense of how things work in this world. However, you’ll probably be in front of the game for a lot longer than fifteen minutes. Once you get a feel for the controls, it becomes really hard to put down. "Just one more song," you’ll say to yourself over and over again. It feels a little like Tetris, but at the same time, it’s nothing like Tetris.

Graphically, the game isn’t going to wow anyone. Its psychedelic corridors are secondary to the gameplay. The graphics serve the gameplay. They’re entertaining enough without being too distracting from the musical focus of the game. For the first time in a while we have a game that isn’t obsessed with wowing gamers with its visual splendor. This is a game where it is all about the game play; it could have the graphical prowess of Pong and I’d still be hooked.

frequency_3-01.jpg (14750 bytes)There’s no franchise to build on with this game. This is the very beginning, and I hope that it really catches on. I tell everyone that I talk to about this game because it is one of those rare titles that has the potential to appeal to everyone from the die hard gamer to someone who’s never picked up a joystick in their life. The only real deterrent to the game might be the music. Personally, I’m still stuck in mid-eighties power ballads and the stylings of Crystal Method or No Doubt don’t really appeal to me. Even though I wasn’t a real fan of the tunes, it didn’t keep me from loving the experience. I do hope that we see future versions of the game that expand into other genres of music. I would kill for a classical version of Frequency. In my head, I could just see me activating sections of Beethoven’s Fifth.

My only reservation about recommending this game lies in people’s general abhorrence of all things new and challenging. The other night I was watching Rush Hour 2, and I couldn’t help thinking to myself, "This exercise in mediocrity was one of the most successful films of the year." Unfortunately, most people want to be told the same stories again and again, and they want to play the same games until the end of time. If you’re up for a new experience, if you’re as bored with platformers as I am, give this game a try. You won’t be disappointed.

Jason Frank   (01/24/2002)


Ups: Original gameplay; great for music fans and makers; highly addictive.

Downs: The newness and musical focus won't appeal to everyone.

Platform: PlayStation 2