Symphony, a premiere title by indie developer Empty Clip Studios, is probably one of the most interesting games I have ever played. It is a space shooter that synchronizes your music collection in order to analyze and compile a unique gaming experience through the song structure and volume of each separate track that you probably downloaded illegally. It’s pretty difficult to explain what the experience is like, but it’s actually kind of addictive and pretty fun.
Symphony’s visuals are remarkably beautiful in their simplicity, using creative color palettes and soft tones to drive its retro-styled shooter graphics toward a modern era in a sort of homage to old-school arcade classics. However, because there is so much on-screen at almost any point in time with four interchangeable weapons at your disposal and enemies that constantly bombard you throughout, it does tend to get a bit jarring to watch and may induce seizures in forgetful epileptics. Still, it’s a lot of great eye-candy for marijuana users… not that I know what that’s like. I go to bible study every afternoon and play board games with my parents! I hope that sounds really convincing!
Its gameplay is almost reminiscent of Geometry Wars (a mini-game first developed as an Easter Egg in Project Gotham Racing 2, later to be ported over to the DS and Apple iOS platforms), but utilizes music as a creative enhancement. The game takes a second to analyze your chosen music track, then creates a game experience tied to that song that then modifies its gameplay with song cadences and dynamics where, if the song speeds up or gets louder, it becomes more frantic and fast-paced and vice versa. Also, enemies enter according to a song’s opening beat on occasion, which is a pretty cool thing to notice while you’re trying to make them explode into tiny bits of pixel.
The fact is that the game didn’t really feel like it was getting too repetitive for me as I played through my favorite songs while singing off-key. The larger your music collection, the more you have an inkling to see what Symphony can come up with in terms of that particular track. Power-ups are useful, but getting to them becomes somewhat sporadic, adding to the game’s difficulty as you attempt to dodge kamikaze demon space ships shooting projectiles trying to steal your music and your soul. It gave me a feeling of re-discovering music that I already loved, and I think that’s a very cool thing if a video game can do that for a man with no rhythm or talent.
However, that is not to say that Symphony‘s gameplay won’t get repetitive for others. If you have never played a Gradius game before, then you may be turned off by its inherently simple retro game mechanics, which can wear thin over time. Still, if you have an urge to shoot something that isn’t a zombie, a Nazi, or colored people, you can play this game for a good 20-30 minutes just to get your gaming fix in for the day while you pretend to do something productive later.
Winning two awards for “Technical Achievement” and Gamestop’s “Digital Download Award” at the Indie Game Challenge in Las Vegas, Nevada has done little to put this game on the map, though Steam does make it a lot more accessible. In addition, a $9.99 download isn’t a bad trade. It’s a great pick-up-and-play title that is incredibly fun in small doses.