March 21, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

At first glance, Amplitude looks impenetrable — a dizzying display of frenetic visual intensity that one might associate with particularly potent pharmaceuticals. But spend some time with the game and you’ll soon discover an underlying order: It’s like a hyperactive musical version of Simon Says, in which players use their controllers to match the rhythm of a song. The concept may sound pointless and boring, but the growing popularity of rhythm games (like ”Dance Dance Revolution”) shows that frantically attempting to mimic a song’s bass line can be just as unnervingly addictive as gunning down foes on a battlefield.

It helps that ”Amplitude” includes an eclectic selection of more than 25 hit songs, from such artists as blink-182, Weezer, Pink, and David Bowie. The deceptively simple gameplay consists of listening to these tracks and pressing buttons to re-create the beats for individual instruments. (On-screen cues help you find the rhythms.) Precisely match the on-screen patterns, and the instruments start to blend together to create the final mix. If you’re not wearing a stupid smirk of satisfaction when you nail your first song, you should immediately check for a pulse.

There’s also a feature that lets you fiddle with song beats — the functionality of which is rather primitive (think Pro Tools as designed by Fisher-Price). The more accomplished can even swap their remixes online using the game’s Internet component.

With its impressive song lineup and kaleidoscopic visuals, Amplitude is a robust single- and multiplayer game that should appeal to even the most casual gamer. Forget the two turntables and a microphone. All you need is one PS2.

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