An incredibly well-made rhythm platformer.
Songbird Symphony has taken the time to turn a standard rhythm game into an utterly charming and comedic take on an adopted bird’s quest to find his family. Balanced with standard platformer exploration and problem-solving fare, Joysteak Studios has created an adorable masterpiece that is entirely more fun to play than it has any right to be.
Starting out in a bird-filled forest, players meet the creatively-named Birb, an orphaned baby bird who is taken under the rather large wing of an eccentric peacock, Uncle Pea. After learning some sweet dance moves from his adoptive uncle, Birb realizes he might not be a peacock afterall and sets out to find his real family through the help of the wise Owl.
With medieval chicken fortresses and maze-like pipes built by dancing mountain penguins, the worlds are an utter delight to explore, offering new challenges and secrets to find in each area. Birb is given a fair number of tasks by the local wildlife, and this ever-optimistic protagonist is happy to pause his own quest to help.
The cheery aesthetics combined with simple gameplay make Songbird Symphony easy to pick up and play, but mastering the songs will take some work. It was sometimes a little difficult to not mix up the buttons during quick combos. Since Birb learns a lot of notes, the game utilizes all face buttons as well as the directionals. This can make it hard for inexperienced players to quickly switch from X to B while prepping your other hand for more fast-approaching notes. However, all songs can be repeated to improve your score once you get more practice.
Thankfully, if you’re not big on perfect scores, the game is quite forgiving during those segments. Songs are broken up by lyrical interludes to give you time to stretch your fingers and prepare for the next onslaught of notes, and no matter your score, you’ll be able to progress in the story. Over the course of the game, new song types are introduced and new playing styles. For example, notes may be tossed above the characters or even disappear entirely before they hit the beat. Mixed with colorful backgrounds and cute animations, players can easily get distracted given all the activity.
Other than designated songs, song notes are occasionally used to get around the world. For example, a platform may only be raised when the right notes are played and timed right as you jump to a new platform. For players who aren’t fond of rhythm games, this doesn’t happen often, and song notes are usually reserved for designated musical portions of the game. Birb also learns only one new note with each area he explores, giving players time to work their way up to more complex songs.
Character design takes center stage in Songbird Symphony, creating distinct characters with surprisingly comedic dialogue. Different species have their own style, from hip hop to salsa, and if you leave Birb alone too long, he’ll launch into his own adorable dance. Even the magpies, who resemble a rowdy street gang, are each uniquely designed and feature their own song style for musical beat downs against Birb. For their debut, Joysteak Studios has put a lot of heart into this game, mixing bright, energetic tones with sad, somber ones. As Birb learns more about his feathered world, he’ll uncover a dark mystery behind the lore of the songbirds.
The game is on the shorter side, I finished it in about five hours, but it was the perfect amount of time to deliver the full story Songbird Symphony set out to tell. Extra tasks are kept short, simple, and to the point, eliminating long, tedious errands or lengthy trips back and forth between worlds. From beginning to end, the game is set up like a story, with fun characters to meet along the way, an intriguing mystery, entertaining dialogue, and the heartfelt determination of Birb.