Developer: Empty Clip Studios
Publisher: Empty Clip Studios
Platform: PC (GOG, Playism, Steam)
ESRB: N/A (E suggested)
Release Date: Out now
Although we have seen many games over the years attempt to perfect procedurally-generated gameplay to music, only a few have been great successes. Titles like Audiosurf and Beat Hazard managed to be quite fun to play with our own unique soundtracks but many more games were unable to achieve such a victory. Symphony is the latest entrant into this subgenre of music games - but is it good?
The first thing you“ll notice with Symphony when playing is how gorgeous it looks. Sure, it“s no Skyrim but it in no way needs to be. What it does offer players is a very pleasing art style where everything is geometric and glowing. Musical notes dance around the screen at times and the background pulses with your music. The whole thing looks great, although at times the aesthetics get in the way of seeing where enemies are. If you can train your eyes to read the field though, which takes maybe a few hours of playing, then the issue won“t be much of one anymore.
Playing the game is also a thrill. There“s very little you have to do aside from shoot and move your ship about the level. Movement is contained to the mouse which means you“re going to be zipping around with complete control. It“s possible to make certain weapons fire with the left or right mouse buttons but unfortunately there“s little room for such strategy. More often than not, you“re simply going to want to fire continuously as there are always new waves of enemies entering the field. That“s when setting weapons to shoot continuously comes in handy.
Selecting how to use weapons isn“t all you“ve got to work with though. The game grants you weapon after weapon as you complete songs. These items can be swapped out and placed on your ship, although only four can be on it at a time. Do you want pulsing blasts that take a while to charge but are incredibly powerful? Do you simply want lots of super fast shots? You can deck your ship out however you please and even change the angle they will blast at. These powerups are a lot of fun to mess with because it takes a while to see what works best with your own playstyle.
When it comes to playing the game there is a lot done right but it“s still far from perfect. The music synching seems fairly well done, as enemies will pop into the screen with the beat and even go faster or slower depending on tempo. The screen as well will switch colors from a cool blue to red when things get exciting. For all that good stuff though, perhaps the biggest component that“s missing is truly distinct tracks. You may listen to all variety of genres but most songs end up playing out in much the same way. Each enemy has their own movement pattern and will always do that and there are only about six entry points onto the screen. Things always end up feeling very similar, even the boss fights that randomly appear from time to time.
This is perhaps the second-biggest issue a game of this sort can have. The first is taking far too long to generate something completely un-fun. Now, Symphony is fun but if you“re expecting to have vastly different levels with your songs you“ll be disappointed. At least the main play that the game provides is fairly entertaining even though it is rarely changed up. With such a responsive ship and variety of enemies it keeps things seeming fun.
The best way to enjoy the game is by getting to higher difficulty settings. It takes three boss battles to unlock the next difficulty but once you do it“s best to get going with it. On higher difficulties you can start to see what the game is meant to be. The frantic march of enemies and stronger ones on the field require you to think fast and change up the experience somewhat. Unfortunately there“s no perfect way to unlock these increases as it only happens once you trigger enough random boss fights. It“s also a bit dull to see that each set of bosses will have the same style until you gain the next difficulty. It would have been much more exciting to see each boss have different patterns.
Now with that out of the way, it“s time to talk about the biggest failing of Symphony. It doesn“t know how to handle a music library. Now, it does do one pretty cool thing, which is to not let you play a song less than a minute long or one that is over eight. It would be dull to play a tiny song and tiring to go with a long one. However, beyond that, it“s all bad news. You are able to select what folders to have the game read and then may look through all the files by album, artist, or all. If all your music isn“t tagged perfectly though then you“ll find that the sorting filters aren“t very useful. Even if they were, you are still forced to flip through your entire library in one cumbersome viewer. It shows only three tracks at a time and was a horrible mess with my thousands of tracks.
Now how can one have complete fun with a rhythm game that is focused around playing with your own music when you can“t even find the songs you want? Those who have a lovingly curated music collection will probably not have much trouble, but anyone else should look out. If the music selection could just be streamlined then the game would immediately be more playable. All they would need to do is either let you see the folders you set, add more filters, and let more tracks be visible at once. As it stands though the whole thing is a huge bother and detracts from the overall experience. The point of a game like this is to have fun with your songs, not grow tired of searching and settle for random tracks.
When it comes right down to it, Symphony both succeeds and fails. It manages to have a great look and play a great deal of music files, but there“s still a lot to be desired. Having a nice selection of weapons to customize your ship with is neat until the game reveals itself to be quite similar track after track. If you can manage to play long enough you“ll even open up higher difficulties which make the game a whole lot more fun. Even with that though it still stuffers with a poor song selection screen which is quite a shame. Those who simply must own every rhythm game that allows custom tracks will find this to be better than many, but it“s not set to become the best anytime soon.
+ Lovely visual presentation
+ Customizing ship for your play style is fun
+ Game will play most songs thrown at it (MP3, M4A, FLAC, OGG, WMA, etc)
- Music selection menu is a chore to use
- Gameplay is far too repetitive until higher difficulties
- Bosses are dull
Overall Score: 5 (Out of 10)
Some will get a lot out of Symphony but it“s only recommended for big music game fans.