Now and again, very rarely, I get pleasantly surprised by a video game. If there is a quality I value more than most in gaming is the ability to make something unique, a game that stands out and has an identity like no other. For example, when I first played Yoku’s Island Express, the mixture of pinball and platforming was something I had never experienced before and I fell in love with it instantly. It’s mostly in the indie gamespace this happens as those games are more likely to push the boat into unknown territories.
Someone described Songbird Symphony to me as a musical platformer with a heartfelt story. They were not far from the mark and it’s a very apt description of this quirky little title. I watched a trailer for the game and it immediately struck me how beautiful it was. The pixel art was stunning, the music was great and the gameplay looked very unique indeed. I could tell from the trailer alone that this game was going to be something I enjoyed; it looked unique, beautiful and very charming.
Somewhere I Belong
Songbird Symphony is a heart-tugging story about an adorable bird called Birb. After years of being raised by his uncle, he starts to realize that he is different from all the other birds around him and it eventually starts to bother him. He does not fit in, feels excluded and eventually cannot take it any longer. He sets out on a mission to discover his family and find out where he is from. Songbird Symphony is a story of identity and belonging, it’s moving and whimsical in equal measures and I loved it.
I wanted nothing more than for this cute little fella to find his roots.
This game is a strange blend of platformer, puzzler with a hefty slice of rhythm game thrown in for good measure. It should not work but it really does, it works so well that I was besotted for the entirety of its six or so hour adventure. You use music and songs all over the place, to move platforms, to open doors but most importantly, the marvelous boss fights. All the story sections are sung and the music fits the words so well that it sounds like the music is actually narrating the game, it’s a truly unique experience from start to finish.
Through the course of this musical adventure you learn new notes, the rhythm sections get more elaborate and the whole experience evolves nicely. There are secret areas, a few collectibles dotted about and a few things to distract you from the main story. I will say this though, I never once, throughout my entire adventure, saw a game over or failure screen. You cannot die and the musical sections are very generous with the difficulty. This is not necessarily a bad thing and I think it helped me appreciate it more – I never got frustrated once, even in the more intricate musical sections.
The boss fights are superb, they play out like guitar hero-esque battles that have you matching the rhythm and notes of your adversary. They are presented in different ways for each battle and they can get quite hectic and fast. This is ramped up towards the end of the game when you have more notes available to you, luckily, as I said they are very generous and I never once even got close to failing one. The dialogue you have with all these bosses is touching, fits the story and all these battles were a lot of fun and a joy to experience.
Let’s get this said straight off the bat, Songbird Symphony is stunning. It will not be to everyone’s taste but to a pixel art nut like me, it’s so beautiful. Everything is so bold, bright and I never once got bored of meeting the characters, seeing new locations and getting lost in this amazing world. Everything is animated so well too, Birb especially, seeing him dance his way through the game is something special. His enthusiasm and drive to succeed against all odds is amazing and set against this beautiful backdrop of stunning pixel work is something magical.
Musically, Songbird Symphony is fantastic. I am still humming songs and tunes from the game the next day. To be fair a game based on music should be good in that sense, but that does not guarantee that will be. The soundtrack is great and the various tunes you have to replicate in order to progress are also very catchy. Voice acting in this game is non-existent but as I stated earlier the story sections are musically played out and the music acts as your narrator, voice acting would have just ruined the experience. The whole presentation, the sights and sounds of Songbird Symphony are top-notch. It’s a feast for the eyes and ears.
I really cannot recommend this game enough, it’s definitely one of the best games I have played this year. It’s like nothing else I have played before and I want nothing more than someone to wipe my mind so I can experience it again for the first time. I got the platinum trophy in about six hours, which may seem a bit short but I was smiling the whole time. I would rather have six hours of pure joy than one hundred hours of bloated nonsense. Songbird Symphony’s story is touching, well made, its art-style is superb and its soundtrack is pure bliss.
I am struggling to find a negative somewhere buried in this game but I am afraid I can’t.
It may be a bit short and not penalize your failures enough but I found that refreshing and it leaves you to just enjoy this adorable musical adventure. It’s not too expensive, has a nice trophy list and everyone should give it a go. I find it hard to believe that Birb will not melt your heart. Everybody will be able to find something, somewhere in this amazing little game that will please them. Just go and buy it now as it’s a one-off masterpiece. I need a real Birb of my own to take home. Where can I get one?
Songbird Symphony is out now on PS4.
Review code kindly provided by the publisher.