If you have an extensive music library, Symphony is likely to remain installed in your computer for months to come.
What if music was attacked by an unknown entity and you had to manipulate your personal music library to liberate it? This is the unconventional premise behind the appropriately named Symphony: Liberate Your Music, a shoot’ em up/rhythm game hybrid that’s both thrilling and compelling.
Although Symphony comes with its own music files, the game’s main draw is the possibility of using songs from your personal collection. Interestingly, other titles have made use of this attractive feature (Audiosurf is probably one of the first games that allowed you to use your music library as an integral part of the experience.) But while this feature has been used before, Symphony’s core gameplay is refreshingly unique.
By default, the game already knows where to look for songs. The first time you launch Symphony, the game scans directories from iTunes and Windows Media Player. On top of that, the game recognizes a variety of audio formats, including MP3, WMA, WAV, OGG and FLAC and the only limitation is that you can’t play a file that’s longer than 10 minutes (so forget about playing songs from Pink Floyd’s concept albums or Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.)
In Symphony, each song represents a level in itself and seeing how everything reacts according to the songs you chose is delightful. The intensity of the music changes the color of the background and the pattern of attack of the enemies is also determined by the song. Playing the game using your favorite music is engaging, but this feature could have been meaningless if the core gameplay wasn’t as satisfying as it is.
You control a small ship that can shoot waves of enemies in a grid similar to that of Galaga. The objective is to shoot enemies to liberate yellow notes (which represent Inspiration) and the more of these notes you accrue, the more chances of reaching score targets you have. Destroying entire enemy waves grants you access to bonuses and continuing the chain gives you strings of points. Coming in contact with enemies, on the other hand, will remove parts of your ship one by one and if you wreck your ship entirely, you lose Inspiration. When your ship is completely destroyed, you have to wait a few seconds until the ship respawns and as a way of penalizing you for your recklessness, some points are subtracted from your overall score. Finally, Kudos is the name of the currency that lets you buy better parts for your ship or improve the ones you already have.
But that’s not all. There’s a variety of enemies and each type of enemy moves and reacts differently. Some move fast, others move really slow, but have shields, others have very specific weak points, others are more resilient to attacks, others shoot back and so on and so forth. Figuring out how to bring them down while you dodge other enemies and collect notes and power-ups makes Symphony both thrilling and entertaining.
As you make progress, you unlock items you can use to customize your ship, which can have up to four different weapons equipped at the same time. Usually, the items you unlock determine the ammo your weapons will fire, as well as their effectiveness and angle. In addition, you can rotate those weapons, upgrade them and toggle auto-fire on and off.
But apart from regular levels, there are a few boss fights. Each boss fight allows you to collect a page of a symphony and the more symphonies you unlock, the more difficulty levels there will be available. These special instances are entertaining because you need to figure out the best way to defeat a boss. Some of them have powerful shields surrounding them, others have enemies surrounding them at all times, others move in specific patterns and so on.
But for all its strengths, Symphony isn’t without its problems. Although the fast-paced action is loads of fun, sometimes the game can be too frantic for its own good and when there are dozens of enemies coming from different parts of the screen, it’s hard to follow the action. The worst part is that sometimes it’s pretty much impossible to distinguish incoming shots amidst the havoc. Another issue is that the music is louder than the sound effects, so if the volume is too loud, the cacophony of sound from the game is significantly louder than the song.
Despite some problems, Symphony is an entertaining title that’s hard to put down and if you have an extensive music library, this game is likely to remain installed in your computer for months to come.