There’s something satisfying about using your own music in a game. Whether it’s just importing the music to listen to in the background, creating custom dance steps to songs in the many Dance Dance Revolution clones out there or even creating in game avatars of your CDs as in Monster Rancher, it’s a good feeling to know you are influencing the gameplay and making your experience truly unique. The best feeling, though, is knowing that your entire experience is shaped by your own tastes, and that is where Symphony excels.
Following in the vein of games like Audiosurf, where levels are generated based on your music, Symphony takes your music and creates shooter levels that can range from slow to extremely frantic. The premise of Symphony is that a force known as “demons” have taken the world’s greatest composers and bound them to the “Symphony of Souls”. Doing so has bound the world’s music to them, and its up to you to liberate it from their evil clutches. You do so by piloting a ship through very Space Invader esque levels, except you are not just limited to the x-axis and can move anywhere on the screen – everything has a very retro yet neon look, almost like Geometry Wars.
Controls are slick and very fluid – and as you might imagine, Symphony runs well even on machines with lesser hardware. That being said our gaming laptop ran the game at a blazing 200 fps, which means that the development team put a lot of time into optimizing the game’s engine.
As fun as blasting through my music collection was, there were still some issues. I wish the enemy types varied a little more based on song and not just on difficulty. That being said, every song did make the game feel different because the patterns would play faster or slower based on the “intensity” of the song, which was denoted by the background turning blue, purple or red. There was only one problem with having a red background – most of the enemy projectiles in the game were also red, which made bullets really hard to see at key moments of intensity in the songs.
Especially on the game’s boss battles, in which you battle against the composers bound to demons (these looked like something out of the original Starfox). Bosses were varied in nature and ranged from enemies that spawned walls that you needed to fly around (difficult, especially if the boss spawns on a fast song) or more modular enemies that will chase your ship around the screen. However, the bosses only spawn randomly on the difficulty you are currently on, so you could play for an hour and not face a single boss. Great for people who just want to keep playing the game, not so much if you’re trying to clear the entire game for purposes of a review.
These moments could lead you to die repeatedly, especially on higher difficulties. The game has very little consequence for death, though, other than to lose 2500 points and whatever powerups you had picked up – not especially a big deal for clearing songs on lower difficulties, but definitely makes it a little bit harder to upgrade your ship and earn the challenge medals later in the game. This is both a good and a bad thing, however, as it’s extremely hard to “fail” a song and makes unlocking ship upgrades a little too easy to abuse the lower difficulties.
Speaking of ship upgrades, this was one system I was a fan of throughout the game. There are various weapons that you can unlock from your basic blasters of varying beam pulses, to spread shots, shotgun blasts, charged attacks, and even some guns such as the subwoofer that activate according to the pulse of the music. The latter especially reminds you that you are playing a music game and not just your basic bullet hell shooter.
Symphony is a music based shooter that oozes with style. Despite some poor decisions on the development team in the boss battle system and general color choices, its one of those games you can always come back to. Don’t pass it up!
Dustin Steiner is GameZone's eSports Correspondent! Follow him on Twitter @VGHC_Deitis and check out Video Gaming Hard Corps, where he is a local tournament organizer for the S. FL. Fighting Game Community.