Songbird symphony review: fun and adorable.

As I pay attention to the moves of Uncle Peacock on screen to make sure I match them correctly, I am struck with a nostalgic buzz reminiscen...

As I pay attention to the moves of Uncle Peacock on screen to make sure I match them correctly, I am struck with a nostalgic buzz reminiscent of the time I first played Parappa the Rapper so many years ago. I always have had a weak spot for music based games from Simon Says, press a button style games to timing combos in amplitude and Guitar Hero.  But Songbird Symphony is more than your average rhythm game. It combines the now familiar tried and true game mechanic with a colorful puzzle-platforming and RPG like story quests in one complete musical adventure about origins, belonging, friendship and family.

Coming to us from publisher PQube and developer Joysteak Studios, Songbird Symphony has been in development since late May 2017. The small 3 man studio from Singapore had the idea to make a game based on birds teaching songs to each other. With an open development that included a page with playable versions of the game accessible to the public the game has garnered attention around the world long before its final full release.

In Songbird Symphony you follow the story of Birb, a cute little bird that was raised by Uncle Peacock somewhere in the vast wilderness. Birb is enjoying his life amongst the peacocks but he realizes he is different than the others and goes on a quest to find his roots. But to get an answer proves to be a challenge. As I mentioned the core of the game is rooted in the delivery of the story through music. From "boss" encounters where you must repeat the patterns to the free roam levels where solving puzzles fills the background with a harmonious song along the way. Cute pixel graphics that have a classic cartoon feel them ties the whole thing together. 

The game opens with a dark screen teaching you the Simon says style response mechanic of the game. From there you take control of Birb and navigate through the 2D landscape, but it is up to you to find your next stop. Birb seems a happy little fellow, always dancing and hopping along with a bright-eyed look of the world around him. Along the way you deal with various creatures and help them with their individual goals. Initial goals are easy enough, such as helping a bee to find flowers or lowering a platform so two newly wed frogs can be together again. 

In later levels the tasks become more complicated and involve the need for certain song skills that you may not have yet. This of course means you might have to back track to the area once you gained the ability/note needed for that area. Interacting with the various npc's (non player characters) and the puzzles often means you have to play along with the rhythm of the background music of the level. When you solve the problem, the grateful characters then start harmonizing with the music to make it sound even better, such as a bass-line, percussion or a melody. It truly makes the game alive with the sound of music.( <--- I see what you did there)

While at first you solve simple tasks to move forward in the game, but things become more involved over time and you will soon be involved in a series of fetch quests that link into each other. For instance when you need to learn a melody from the chicken king, he demands that you ask the wood pecker to build a throne first. The wood pecker is too busy for that so you have to provide a solution to move the quest forward.  Of course all of this is presented with delightful dialog from adorable characters. 

The music and sound effects are designed as well as the rest of the game and form a perfect blend with the art style and theme. There is no voice acting or singing in the game  as you would find in games such as Parrapa the Rapper. In Songbird Symphony songs are presented by an instrumental melody. The game does show lyrics on the screen complete with a karaoke style little ball that hops along the text to indicate when to sing what. Soon we found ourselves singing along with the song while one person was playing. 

This game is definitely fun to watch as an audience.  If you miss a note you will hear a trumpet sound blare indicating that you messed up, which in turn can throw you off even more, so keeping focus is key. Once you complete a song you will be able to see a stat list with how well you did and be give a grade. There are audio and visual queues in the game that tell you what you need to do when it is your turn, but as the songs become more challenging you will need to keep your wits and use various button combinations to gain a  passing score. Once you pass you usually are given an item you need for a quest or a new note in your arsenal that open up new skills to complete the puzzles hidden throughout the levels.

The game comes with a bunch of hidden items, secret passages and more to discover. You can go back to each major rhythm game and replay it in an effort to get a higher score and also go back to complete all of the music parts of each level, all adding into the replay value of the game.

In conclusion Songbird Symphony is a feel good game that is easy to pick up but becomes hard enough to be a challenge without feeling unfairly punishing. The music makes your feet tap along with the game and the indicators when to push a button are well placed and use a combined audio and visual queue.  Songbird Symphony is a ton of fun and adorable!

Game information:
Title: Songbird Symphony
DeveloperJoysteak studios
Publisher: PQube
Release date: July 25th, 2019 / Physical Release: September 20th
Platforms: PC(Steam), Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4 
Version Reviewed: Nintendo Switch
ESRB: E for Everyone


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