If one was to describe Songbird Symphony, created by Joysteak Studios and published by PQube Limited, the first word to come to mind would be ‘adorable’. The game’s a mix between a simplistic sidescroller and a music rhythm game, featuring a chubby little chickling named Birb as the protagonist. It’s a charming experience that’s bound to satisfy the needs of casual and seasoned gamers alike.
Birb just loves to dance and sing, yet he’s always felt like a bit of an outcast. After all, he doesn’t look like a peacock, much like his Uncle Pea. After setting off to find answers about his identity, Birb finds himself partaking in a daring adventure to find special musical artifacts for a wise old owl, who promises to help Birb find his parents. On his trails, he helps out the friendly denizens of the forest, whom will teach him new song notes by testing his singing skills. Dialogue exchanges never overstay their welcome, and the hero of the story is just so loveable because of his innocent, generous personality. It has about five hours of playtime on offer, which is a fair amount but it could’ve been peppered up with an extra mode or two to bloat up the package
To the surprise of absolutely no one, what we have here is yet another pixel art game. Let’s not be so cynical though, folks. Its faux 16-bit graphics fit in very well with the whimsical feel of it all. Every area you’ll explore is radiant and eye-catching, from the luscious waterfalls of Green Meadows to the luscious, fluorescent lighting as seen in the illustrious club known as Vice Paradise. It also has some well-drawn characters and slick animations, too (as an editorial side-note, if seeing Bird strut his funky stuff doesn’t make you smile, then your heart must be made of stone).
The layouts of each level aren’t too tricky to get your head around, thankfully. There are plenty of characters in each that you’ll get to talk to; a small handful will need help with a few tasks. These-side quests are not particularly challenging, as they’re usually made up of simple switch puzzles and fetch quests. There are a set number in each area; completing them will reward you music notes, which are more than just frivolous collectibles (that accolade goes to the bird feathers scattered across each level).
Thing is, the catchy ditties you’ll hear playing in the background in each area will start off fairly minimalistic. Completing said quests will encourage the bugs, fireflies and flowers to celebrate with joy, thereby adding more layers of sounds that harmoniously blend with the soundtrack. From cheery rhythms to soothing ambience, being able to hear each song in its fullest form is a great incentive to complete every side-quest. You’ll also unlock shortcuts to help you navigate around the maps quicker, too.
Birb will find himself taking part in some challenging battles, where you must input the correct buttons that appear on-screen at the right time. The difficulty curve becomes notably steeper after the first few battles. Not only will you need to use more buttons on the controller, but some of the notes will bounce across the screen, or even turn invisible, just to throw you off. At the end of each of these events, you’ll receive a rank for your performance. Usually, there’s just enough leeway to scrape yourself a good score. However, the top ranks will require near-perfect timing throughout. Even if you don’t do so well, you can still progress with the story and try again later, which is generous enough.
At its core, Songbird Symphony is a fairly run-of-the-mill platformer with simplistic side-quests, puzzles and mechanics. Good thing there’s more on offer than just that. The whole experience is memorable and whimsical, thanks to its superb sound design, music and visuals. Plus, Birb has got to be one of the cutest protagonists ever to star in an indie game. The Guitar Hero-esque battles will make you sweat, though they’ll never prevent you from progressing further. Short though it may be, this symphony is well worth tuning into.