There are generally two kinds of rhythm games: character-based romps and abstract test of skill. Though Konami's Bemani family has long provided for a balance between the two types in Japan, only two editions of Dance Dance Revolution have seen their way to the States, so Harmonix is picking up the slack with Frequency.

   Despite appearances, the game is almost a carbon copy of the original Beatmania. Players can choose from one of two controller setups, each of which synchs three buttons to three lines coming down the screen. Strung along these lines are beats that advance toward a horizontal line; when they reach the line, you press the corresponding button to catch them. The difference is that in Beatmania, you contribute specific and vital components of the song through your actions, while in Frequency you'll be building the song from the ground up.

   Each stage starts only with a simple beat. From there, you can move around the eight surfaces of the octagonal tube, each one representing a different track in the song. Not all tracks are available to be unlocked at all times, so certain sections of the song will have, for instance, only the bass, vocals, synth, and drums to master. Once you successfully complete two measures of the chosen instrument, that segment is mastered and you can move on to the next.

 Sisyphus: The Game
Ding! Start again

   If mastering specific elements of the song unlocked other instruments in a well-planned sequence, Frequency might have been more enjoyable. However, the structure of each level is maddening and counterproductive to the real aim of finishing the song. Each subsection, as mentioned earlier, contains only a few of the song's instruments, but when you move from one subsection to the next, all of your previous work is nullified and you must redo the same tracks you've already completed. The effect is that the flow of the song and your feeling of accomplishment is reset to zero from scratch just when it should be gradually building to a triumphant conclusion.

   The fact that Frequency has such high-caliber music makes this all the more a pity. A lot of top-class acts such as Paul Oakenfold, Roni Size, Orbital, and the Crystal Method lent their songs to the game, putting the music a cut above the in-house generic beats found in other games of this sort. However, since you so rarely get to hear all the elements of the song, it would likely have made a more interesting compilation CD than a game.

   Other aspects of the gameplay include a remix mode, which is somewhat more interesting than the main game but suffers from some drawbacks of its own. The interface used to remix the tracks is the same one used to play the game: use one of the three buttons to drop a limited range of pitches and tones onto each instrumental surface. The main problem with the remix mode is that experimentation is made too difficult by not allowing the player to hear the three tones per track in isolation, so that he or she can then place them where they would best fit. The mode emphasizes spontaneous trial-and-error over careful planning, which somewhat diminishes its value as a level designer--which is its true nature, since the remix tracks created can then be played in the main game.

Not tonight, I've got a headache

   The background graphics are largely unremarkable; players won't really notice since all their attention will be focused on the advancing beats. The exception is a strangely involving create-an-avatar mode to personalize your onscreen representative (known as a "Freq," presumably pronounced "Freak"). In many ways, the Freq customization is the most engaging part of the entire game.

   Though not really a terrible game, Frequency is so frustrating and unengaging it's hard to recommend, especially in light of the PlayStation 2's current spate of well-done rhythm action games. Skipping the game to buy the albums will help ensure no more titles of this sort get made, will better help support the artists involved, and--most importantly--will result in a greater sense of enjoyment for you.

Review by Nich Maragos, GIA.
Developer Harmonix
Publisher SCEA
Genre Rhythm action
Medium CD-ROM (1)
Platform PlayStation 2
Release Date  Unknown
Full Frequency song list revealed
25 screenshots
Box art