The lights are on
Whether it’s Nazis, the undead, or hostile aliens, there is something incredibly satisfying about shooting things to good music. Symphony scratches this itch in a very cathartic manner by allowing players to shoot many, many things to whatever music they have in their library.
The best way to describe Symphony might be as an overlap of Audiosurf and Geometry Wars. Each song you put into the game becomes a level that you must shoot your way through with your trusty musical battleship. Controlling your ship via mouse, you need to avoid kamikaze enemies, projectiles, and other hazards such as insta-death walls. If you are killed by one of these obstacles, no need to fret; you have infinite lives. Death is punished by the deduction of a small chunk of your points. Different parts of your ship take damage depending on where it is hit by projectiles or enemies. You have four guns, and each can be taken out by area-specific damage. However, you can repair your ship by collecting pieces of inspiration that are dropped by destroyed enemies, which also provide points. The gameplay is addictive, intuitive, and tons of fun.
If that was all that Symphony did, it might not be as noteworthy as it is, but it layers more content atop the addictive gameplay. The points of inspiration you pick up can be used to purchase upgrades and new weapons, as well as power-ups that appear throughout the levels. You unlock one weapon or item per song through a randomized process, so you will never know what you are going to be getting next. Some items are rare and extra powerful, and some are the same as your initial weapon loadout. Levels add another layer of replayability (in addition to wanting to play your favorite songs over again) through the implementation of six different difficulties: pianissimo, piano, mezzo-piano, mezzo-forte, forte, and fortissimo. Higher difficulties net you more kudos points, which are necessary to unlock higher level upgrades for your weapons.
A nicely packaged story mode tasks you with defending our universe from an unknown entity that wishes to consume our music and souls. It has captured different composers and enslaved them to do its bidding in the form of random boss battles. Each boss occurs three separate times along with a short exchange with the unknown entity, increasing in difficulty with each subsequent encounter. Defeating a boss unlocks the next highest difficulty.
There is also an online ranking system, allowing players to compete for high scores and earn medals. This basically amounts to an in-game achievement system. The method you use to import music into the game is very easy and painless. Symphony comes with its own music if you really don’t feel like rocking out to your own tunes.
The only problems I had in my time with Symphony were periods of intense lag, which lasted about a second or two. This was not a big deal since these instances were few and far between, but they usually resulted in somewhat frustrating deaths. Unfortunately, mp4s (most iTunes music) are not able to be inserted into Symphony, as that format is only playable through Apple devices. This isn’t Symphony’s fault, but prospective buyers should beware. Symphony is a great experience and we look forward to seeing the retail version when it arrives on PC August 6.
Email the author Jack Gardner, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.
Just go play Beat Hazard!
Dang it! I want this to come to PSN!!! I would definitely buy it.
I've been watching this game for a while. Great visual style and wonderful idea, I hope it turns out to be as amazing as it looks!
Love being able to use the mouse in these games, look how much faster he moves in that preview than you would be able to even using the keyboard.
I hate apple's propietary format, but they do everything else so well it's hard to stay angry with them too long :)