Have you ever played a game that made you instantly bond with the lead character? One which made you want to reach out and give them a massive hug when they felt depressed, cheer along when they’re happy, encourage them when they lose hope, and dance along as they sing? Well, Songbird Symphony had me emotionally attached to the perky protagonist from the very first moment I saw his well-defined butt as he ran out of his little house!
Combing rhythm mechanics with a heartwarming tale of discovering your identity and origins, Songbird Symphony is one of 2019’s hidden gems and should be experienced by everybirdy. Let’s find out why…
The story within SongBird Symphony is overwhelmingly cute and uplifting, it’s all about finding out who you really are, no matter what obstacles and issues you come across. Birb, our super adorable protagonist, has grown up with his ‘Uncle Pea’, an elderly Peacock who has the dance moves of a young Peacock in it’s prime. However, Birb is short, stumpy and grey, not tall, slender and colourful like all the other Peacocks, thus becoming the centre of ridicule by all the others within the tribe. Enough is enough, Birb decides it’s about time he left and found out just who his real parents are as he no longer feels welcome within this village.
So, off he sets to seek the wisest of all the birds, Owl. Surely he can help him find his parents and discover what species he actually is? It doesn’t take much to gain the support of this feathery fellow, but you must help him in return… You must seek out and learn the song notes from various tribes across the land so that Owl can use them to power the strange artifact he has in his possession, once he has all six, he’ll happily perform a thorough investigation behind who you are and where you came from.
Thus begins your adventure. Travel to various villages and tribes to talk to those in charge, sing and dance with a number of bubbly birds, make new allies, and discover where you truly belong. In this non-violent puzzle-platforming adventure, you’ll come to care for young Birb so much, you won’t want your time with him to ever come to an end…
SongBird Symphony is a rhythm-based puzzle platformer. It’s a combination I’ve not seen too often as I can only think of one recent game which is a bit similar, Wandersong. As such, outside of the rather confusing and complicated puzzles, which I’ll talk about next, you don’t actually fight any of the enemies or creatures you encounter – you sing to them as they sing and dance with you. This is a really cool mechanic and the developers have had a lot of fun when putting the game together as each encounter is basically a karaoke sing-a-long between Birb and our sing-off partners.
As the music plays, you’ll see lyrics appear on the screen (as there is no voice acting within the game) and a bouncing ball that allows you to sing-a-long, should you wish to do so (I did). Then, during the instrumental parts, that’s when it’s your time to shine as you gracefully sing-a-long by mimicking whatever the other character does ala Parappa the Rapper style! I both loved and hated this aspect of the game (sorry devs!) for a few reasons. I loved the fact that every encounter was different – not just because of the song and the music, but the method of mimicking the other person changes also. For example, the game starts off easy, just tap the buttons on the screen as they pass a marker – simple. However, later on, you’ll have notes flying in as pieces of food, not showing the button until the last minute, notes falling that disappear, a memory-based one where you’re shown what to press then you have to repeat with no help, ones that spin in a circle really fast, and even notes on a guitar-like structure. This kept the song segments fresh and exciting as you never know what the format is going to be.
My issue with the above is that some of the song segments are beyond impossible to get a great rating on. For example, the food one, which doesn’t show the notes until the last second. In this, the food flies in really fast and it’s so hard to remember what food means what (as they all look very similar and are the same colour). Also, when you encounter the main villains and bosses, they use multiple song methods, switching between them mid-song on the fly, making it even harder to keep up and succeed.
But, I won’t hold the difficulty of the rhythm sections against the overall grade of the game because your score isn’t a progression blocker or even required for a trophy (from what I can see). You can even replay the songs as much as you want (especially when you complete the game), so it’s a fun way of playing and improving your reflexes and eye-to-hand coordination more than anything. I managed to get B’s and A’s on all the songs, so I’m sure you can too! It just might be a little overwhelming for younger gamers, which is why I think it’s great that you aren’t punished or stopped in your tracks if you’re having issues.
Aside from the lovely, and rather funny, singing parts of the game, the rest of your time will be navigating the various locations and completing puzzles both solo and with an eggciting partner. As music is the key component to SongBird Symphony, you’ll use your voice to solve many of the puzzles – just like in Wandersong. Mimicking various notes will allow you to move blocks in order to gain entry or line up a pathway to drop blocks, you can sing to make your partner sit on a switch or follow you, and you can sing to open doors and interact with somebirdy else.
I won’t lie – I got confused and lost a few times, mainly in the level with the penguins. However, after a little backtracking and exploring alternate pathways, I found where I was meant to go and managed to proceed without any issues. I really enjoyed the puzzles within SongBird Symphony as they were quite challenging. Each one has a reset button for when you inevitably cock-up, but they are really satisfying once you manage to work out the solution. Each puzzle has been carefully thought out and really makes you think about what you’re doing – it’s not a simple A to B type game.
Another ‘Puzzle’ I’ve not yet completed is finding all the lost feathers and then figuring out which bird they belong to. I’ve found the majority of the feathers but I need to go back and talk to everyone in hopes that Birb works out who has dropped them. I’m not sure if this results in some post-game reward, but it’s like a mystery game in itself, offering clues as to who they belong to. Each area also has hidden ‘events’, such as getting into a party or making a pathway by supplying water to the background animals. These are rewarded wither with PSN trophies or in-game ‘notes’. These ‘notes’ are then used to open secret pathways and rooms later on into the game.
Seeing as the music is the star of the show within SongBird Symphony, you’d expect the songs and instrumentals to stand out. I’m happy to say that I absolutely loved the music within the game, from the different background music based upon which area you’re in, to the unique and funny sing-a-long songs in which you mimic the other character in order to ‘defeat’ them. Thanks to the karaoke-style bouncing ball, I even found myself singing along to all the singing/dance-offs, usually with a massive grin on my face due to how cute and cheesy the lyrics are! Well, except for some of the more emotional songs which are really sweet and sad.
What I really want is for either PQube or Joysteak Studios to commission an orchestra and professional singers to both perform and sing each of the songs and release it as either a CD or digital album. Despite how amazing my voice is, and perfectly in tune (I wish), I would love to hear professionally recorded renditions of each of the songs. Usually, I don’t really mind that indie games don’t have vocal artists involved, as it helps keep the development costs down, is more in line with the pixel-art style, and everyone would rather have no vocals over bad vocals, but in this instance, I really wish it had vocals for everything – including the singing.
Just like the rhythm segments, I can’t hold the lack of vocals against the game, it’s made intentionally silent by the developers, but it’s something which I felt could have boosted my score up a few notches to at least an 11 or 12 out of 10.
Since getting my hands on SongBird Symphony, I’ve been showing short video clips and images of Birb and the unusual characters he meets to my family and colleagues – each one instantly falling in love with this game. If you stay idle for a few seconds, he’ll begin to strut his stuff, dancing away as he waits patiently for you to continue, showing the world his amazing moves as his butt shakes from side to side. Every environment you enter is a work of art – it’s pixel art in style, but not the blocky kind, it’s a very fine style that gives the characters and backdrops a much more detailed look that we see with most pixel-art games.
Speaking of the characters, I wasn’t ready for the ensemble of birds you’re about to befriend. From hip-thrusting penguins to ball-on-legs chickens, each one has its own personality which is perfectly represented through its attitude, movements, and dialogue. In a way, the originality of the characters reminded me a lot of Wuppo, another underrated indie game from 2017 which had a similar theme of a single being going out on an adventure to get back ‘home’.
Even if you’re not a fan of smaller indie titles or games with pixel graphics, I urge you to give SongBird Symphony a try – it’s so unique and special, everyone needs to help young Birb on his emotional journey!
If you’re looking for something different and enjoy platforming, puzzles and rhythm games, SongBird Symphony is for you! Each new area and species of bird you meet has its own soundtrack as well as fun and entertaining song-battle for you to take part within. I couldn’t help myself from singing along, cheering for our small protagonist’s achievements, becoming heartbroken when bad things happen, and cheering him on when all hope was lost. I’ve not been this emotionally attached to a video game for a while, I wanted to step into the game and give Birb a massive hug and never let go. I did find some of the song battles a bit overwhelming and borderline unfair, but it didn’t stop progression and there’s no requirement to achieve an S-rank on them for trophies or the in-game narrative.
Upon completing the main story of SongBird Symphony, I instantly jumped back in and continued my adventure with my new partner as I re-explored previous locations for all the hidden events, feathers, and secrets I missed. The six hours or so I spent with this game will stick with me for a very long time, it’s a story with a lot of heart and emotion, perfect for people of all ages.
- - The whole game is beyond cute and adorable
- - A modern take on an 'Ugly Duckling' aspect combined with seeking your origin
- - The song battles are both entertaining and fun with their witty lyrics and memorable music
- - Birb is one of the most lovable protagonists I've ever seen. We need more Birb in our life! (and Egbert)
- - Visually, the game looks great in it's fine pixel-art style
- - Some of the song segments are tricky and overwhelming (doesn't affect gameplay progression)
- - You can get lost in certain places (Not a negative if you like exploring)