A Day At The Opera
HIGH The positive energy provided by the atmosphere.
LOW Puzzles that value patience over creativity.
WTF One of the habitats is being inhabited by dating gurus.
Songbird Symphony tells the story of Birb, an orphaned and adventurous songbird in search of his identity. Raised by roosters while being of a different species, Birb decides to leave the weird stares and gossip about him behind and start his own journey.
This lighthearted, yet emotional narrative is realized as a 2D rhythmic platformer. The player explores areas, chats with NPCs and solves puzzles to remove obstacles along the way. At the end of every area, a ‘boss fight’ has Birb sing a song with the locals, requiring the player to react to the rhythm of notes performed by each species.
Songbird‘s uplifting nature is notable. Birb is in an obvious state of existential crisis, but still has a flair for positivity. The colorful atmosphere and aesthetics add to the energy. Birb is also fond of dancing when successful in his challenges, and all of this kept a constant smile on my face while playing.
The negative side of this, however, is that Songbird’s central theme of identity crisis doesn’t feel seriously explored. Birb’s constant cheerfulness made it impossible to feel any weight in his journey. That said, Songbird’s storytelling seems to fit the tone of a children’s novel more than anything –it scratches the surface of complex issues, but innocently enough so as to avoid causing any harm to an unaware player.
Mechanically, each species of bird visited has its own terrain with different kinds of collectibles found throughout, the most straightforward being musical notes. These are usually found within satisfying side quests, such as helping a guitar player create a love song, or helping a chicken find her chicks across a map.
Most musical notes are necessary to progress the story, but bird feathers, a second type of collectible, are completely optional and provide serious challenge. They’re usually hidden in less-obvious spots and require some puzzle-solving. The best part? Every feather is linked to a character, which gives the reward of additional dialogue with the feather’s owner.
Even more challenging are the boss songs. Each of these sequences have their own unique style, with some fading notes to confuse the player, while others have players memorize and repeat a sequence of notes correctly. Every boss song is scored, and constantly aiming for As or even S-ranks kept me replaying them, which can conveniently be done at any time after beating it once.
Songbird delivers a polished expereince, with no complaints from me on a technical level. Its music and rhythmic action line up neatly, the platforming feels precise, and controlling Birb in the vast explorable areas works just as expected. However, there are some design annoyances that are frustrating. These usually boil down to puzzle sections that offer a number of too-similar tasks, rather than new kinds of challenges. It felt as if the idea of a difficulty curve here was interpreted as stuffing areas with more puzzles of a similar skill level rather than actually upping the complexity.
With that being said, fully completing Songbird does invite a committed playstyle, although simply finishing the main story remains a walk in the park. There’s little risk of failure, and even my sloppiest runs didn’t trigger a ‘try again’ scenario, reinforcing the idea that this might be aimed at younger players.
While the central narrative likely won’t inspire seasoned indie fans, Songbird Symphony might be just the thing to convince a younger age group to try some independent releases. As for me, this songbird’s notes aren’t particularly touching, but they did succeed in putting a smile on my face.
Disclosures: Songbird Symphony was developed by Joysteak Studios and published by PQube. It’s currently available on PC, Switch and PS4. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on Switch. Approximately 7 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: The ESRB rates Songbird Symphony with an E without descriptors, stating the following: This is a musical adventure game in which players assume the role of a young bird searching for his family. As players traverse whimsical platform environments, they can engage in music/rhythm-based tasks with other characters.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Songbird Symphony is fully subtitled and has no voice acting. A considerable portion of the game is spent on rhythm gameplay with explicit sounds and cues for them.
Remappable Controls: There are no remappable controls. There is no control diagram. The player can move with the left joystick, jump with the B button, access menus with ZL and ZR and navigate them with the left joystick. The directional pad and XYAB buttons are also used in rhythmic sections. The ‘plus’ button can be pressed to open a pause menu.