Never thought the day would come where I could grind against Godzilla!
Symphony is a music based, mouse controlled shooter; If, like me, you have no idea what that means, then let me explain. Simply put, you man a turret-mounted space battleship shoot down the baddies in your wake as the music found on your harddrive echoes through the space – but I’ll explain that detail in a moment. The story goes that a being from another dimension is attacking the music files on your computer and enslaving your greatest composers and mediocre dubstep DJs in order to take over our dimension. Naturally you don’t want all of your music to be taken away, so grab your flying Star Wars Rebel symbol, drift through your files and destroy those inter-dimensional pests.
Now that you’re utterly confused, I’ll move on. Each level is in fact a song which you play though. Much like other rhythm based games like Beat Hazard and The Polynomial, Symphony analyses yours precious or embarrasing song files and creates a level based on its beats. When the song picks up the pace, so does the level, throwing more and tougher enemies into your line of fire with a choice of difficulty before you start. Once you save your song from the onslaught of the space denizens you’ll receive a progress report and earn two types of points for you to spend on upgrading and unlocking different weapons for your drifting sound saver.
Now this all sounds hunky dory, doesn’t it? – shooting your way though loads of bad inter-dimensional viruses while listening to great music and earning a bomb in points to upgrade your neon coloured ship. It’s a good life. Sadly it isn’t quite that simple; the shooting doesn’t really pose a challenge until the tempo of the song picks up. Only then will you find yourself desperately trying to avoid the kamikaze beings and breaking a sweat as the terrible memories of Asteroids flow back into your mind. On the other hand, these enemies all have pre-set paths meaning you’re able to predict (when there aren’t 100′s of them) where they will go, then just sit in one place, unleash your guns and collect the points. The upgrades are somewhat underwhelming and relatively all the same. Only a small selection of different upgrades are available – all of which are weapons – so no health, shield and passive items are there to help you out; And if the lack of varied upgrades to suit your style wasn’t a blow to it’s credibility, Symphony only allows you to upgrade your weapons 5 times leading the whole point system to become somewhat stagnant after a short while.
The upside to this game is, of course, the music - because it’s yours. You can shove whatever you want into the game and then play a level based on your favourite song. I haven’t tried but I’m sure you could put a podcast in and blast your way though, what would doubtless be, a very long and boring level. However, the futuristic neon art style does not suit all music. For instance, listening to Bach while playing Symphony seems somehow wrong and your unlikely to get a very exciting level from it either.
Symphony will not be keeping you playing for hours and hours just to get to the next part of the story, but its new, original and completely ridiculous gameplay suits Symphony in the way a conventional story wouldn’t. It’s like another version of Beat Hazard only with a little more reason thrown in for good measure.
Audio/visual – 5/5: As the audio is largely under your control I can’t fault it there. The visuals are fast paced and adaptable and delight to gaze upon.
Gameplay – 2/5: Lacking in most areas but with a solid base, features like the ship customisation could and should have been so much better. It’s a shame because the correct level and unlock progression could have made this game severely addictive.
Value – 3/5: Currently at £6.99 on steam (UK) it’s not a bad buy if your interested in blowing things up to the sound of your own interests.
Innovation – 4/5: There have been quite a few music based games over the years but I don’t know any that allow you to put your own music into the games and have them make a difference.
Final Score – 3/5: By no means a bad game, but by no means a fantastic one either. This comes down to a judgement call from individuals as to weather you want to get it or not.