Remember the old Vectrex console from back in the early 1980s? It based its technology on vector graphics, and added colour by placing overlays on the screen, well when I first played Symphony on the PC for the first few seconds this is what it reminded me of. If you’ve ever played a Vectrex Space Invaders clone, or even Tempest, then you’ll know what I’m talking about when I mention Symphony’s vector style graphics. Symphony is a space shooter crossed with a music game, the game scans your music collection (this can be filtered to choose artists or albums, so you can be quite selective)before gameplay starts, and each game you play is based on that song. It sounds very interesting, so let’s take a closer look.
Symphony, at its very basic roots, is a shoot-em-up. Before you start the game, you must choose a level which is based on one of your songs from your music collection. The premise of the game is to destroy all the incoming aliens. You have unlimited lives, however when you die you get a time-penalty which means that you are inactive in the game area for a few seconds. At the top of the game is a graphic equaliser that bounces along to the rhythm of your song, and the waves of aliens are released in time to the music. The faster the tempo, the faster the aliens move are on screen, and the faster the beat the more aliens are put your way to fight. It all makes for a very different game each song, and surprisingly it works very well.
Every time you destroy an enemy it will leave a note on the screen, you have to try and manoeuvre around to pick these notes up in order to build up your “inspiration” score. The whole idea of pick-ups in this game is done very well, with you collecting points and parts for your ship, along with other bonus items. When you collide with an alien, or get shot, then a piece of your ship will fall off. Collecting some power-ups can repair this, and keep you in the game.
Aliens come in all shapes and sizes, and you’ll soon get to know the different classes. Some of them are small and very fast, flying around the screen at various angles, while others are quite huge and slowly make their way down the screen. As it most games, the bigger the alien ship that you destroy, the better the reward seems to be. The best thing about this action is that it’s all done to the music you have chosen, so if you know the song, then you’ll know where the fast or slow parts are and can adjust your gameplay to match what is about to happen.
The level progression in the game is taken care of by facing “Demons” who appear after every few songs. These demons are of course bosses, and break up the gameplay nicely. The feeling you get from progressing the level is quite good, as the game makes you feel as if you are actually getting better at what you do.
Control of the game is via the touchpad or mouse. Your ship can move in all directions but will always face forward. You can tweak your ships weapons individually, and as there are four of them, it mean you can keep two guns firing forward and swivel the other two guns to fire in an alternate direction. Symphony is very user friendly and the on-screen help will talk you through every step of the game, making sure you always get the most out of every option.
I have already touched on the games graphics, but I can’t emphasise enough at how pretty this game looks. Yes, it looks old-school, but the colour choice, the intense amount of objects flying over the screen and the explosions look absolutely stunning. Lighting effects have been put to good use to create what has to be the best looking vector-graphics game ever, and all this from a download that is just over 300MB! The game runs as smooth as silk on my gaming laptop, and over my time playing it I did not come across any glitches or crashes in the game.
Sonically of course the game uses your soundtrack from your hard-drive, so it’s a win-win situation. Just make sure you choose music you like to get the best out of the game’s very unique gameplay. Sound effects are also great, and it feels like you are playing an old game with all new modern sound effects.
Overall then, Symphony is a cross shooter and music based game, however it all works in perfect harmony so the gameplay really does alter depending on the music you are playing. It’s been released at a brilliant price and if you’re a 2D shooter fan who loves music then look no further than this little gem. Brilliant, simple and most importantly… fun!
Special thanks to GOG.com for a copy of the game.