I love music, I love retro arcade style games, and in effect, I love Symphony! Having played and thoroughly enjoyed a fair few Playism games now, I jumped at the chance to play this beautiful little game. Music games don’t often grab my attention, but this is no ordinary music game!
Your music collection is under attack from a strange demon hell-bent on corrupting your music collection – literally! The aim is to navigate your ship back and forth, dodging enemies and their attacks whilst collecting what they drop when defeated – musical notes. If you manage to eliminate an entire wave of enemies – usually around ten ships – you will be rewarded with a chain bonus that multiplies the points you then collect (if you can reach the bonus without dying of course).
You and your customisable battle ship must fight your way through your music, shooting various enemy types and reclaiming your musical notes. Every enemy will drop one, being big or small depending on the enemy size and difficulty. These notes add to your Inspiration Points which can then be used to unlock a new weapon for your ship. Each song successfully completed offers another weapon to purchase, each with their own power and effect. Reaching certain Inspiration targets during songs will grant you extra Kudos Points that can be used to level up a weapon of your choice.
Every now and then you will come across a boss that will appear mid-song as your trusty ship spins out of control. After a short speech from the demon about how he has trapped the composer’s soul, a boss battle will commence. The bosses will change as you progress through the difficulties and get increasingly harder to dodge and beat. By successfully defeating the demon, you are rewarded with a section of sheet music, five of which are needed to unlock a new difficulty.
Each song has its own difficulty depending on how fast, slow, loud or quiet it is, but even the slower songs are given difficult sections that Symphony is very good at finding. As the song changes throughout, so does the general area/enemy colour, from a mellow blue, to a vibrant purple, and a heated red. These colours give you an indication of how fast and difficult your enemies are, as well as what enemy types you can expect. Large, shielded enemies that can destroy your ship in a single attack often make an appearance. You find yourself looking only for notes that will restore your ships integrity, and caring little about bonuses scattered about the place as sections become what seems to be impossible.
A great little feature in Symphony is the ability to modify your ship. Not only can you add newly unlocked weapons to one of four slots, but you can also rotate them to fire in a specific direction. Better still, you can assign them to a specific mouse click, with the option to have the weapon fire automatically or when a button is pressed. Weapons can be customised differently also. The starting weapons can only be rotated slightly, but some can be rotated all of the way round so you can fire behind you. Some weapons even shoot both back and forth simultaneously! Or left and right if you prefer. These can be very useful when moving forward to collect items, or to flank a shielded enemy.
Symphony became very exciting when risking a favoured song on a newly unlocked difficulty with music corruption mode on and no backups (how the game should really be played if you have the guts for it). My music collection contains a wide variety of different genres, and I can honestly say that there was not one that took the excitement and enjoyment away. Having said that, the music that really gets you fuelled with adrenaline is what I would recommend.
I have very few negative things to say about Symphony, but one thing that I will say is that before starting the game, I assumed that I would be able to play through an entire album or a random song. However that is not the case. You must manually select every song that you wish to play, and sit through the level completed screen before navigating to your next choice. Whenever I listen to my iPod, I almost always have Shuffle Mode active because I enjoy wondering what the next song will be, or trying to remember what song it is that’s currently playing. With Symphony I don’t get any of that through having to choose what song to play next. Another thing is that when a weapon has been unlocked on a specific song, you must find that song whenever you wish to upgrade that weapon, or to buy it if you didn’t originally. This may sound like a minor thing but when you have an extremely large music collection with as many unlocked weapons as I had, it becomes a real chore. Songs can be filtered by artist or album, but remembering which song you’re looking for is half of the problem.
I thoroughly enjoyed Symphony and will continue to play it on a regular basis. It’s definitely the kind of game that you can come back to again and again even just for quick song or two, and with its seemingly endless longevity, you surely won’t get bored for a while. I only wish I could root out my old Amiga 600 joystick and play it the old-fashioned way, but currently Symphony has no gamepad support. But that shouldn’t put you off because the mouse works very well indeed. I highly recommend this game to those PC gamers out there that love those fast-paced, dodge-everything shoot ‘em up games, or those who just love music or retro-style games. Hell, I recommend this to everyone – it’s great fun!