A winner of two awards at the 2012 Indie Game Challenge at D.I.C.E., Empty Clip Studios’ Symphony is a colorful, addictive, vertical shooter that is compatible with any song from your music library. The game transforms your track into a battlefield (similar to Galaga), where you can fire away at geometrically-shaped enemies in your customized ship while collecting multipliers. The goal is to liberate the “Symphony of Souls” from an entity that is trying to absorb your music.
“The biggest challenge was to get the game to “feel” the intensity of the music,” said Matt Shores, the co-developer of Symphony in an e-mail interview. “Once we had that going, it really, really made the game shine. There are so many different types of music! We needed the game to feel good whether you were listening to a violin solo, folk music or heavy metal.”
And that’s part of the appeal of the game. You get to listen to your favorite tunes; whether you want to relax to some classical tunes or fire away to Lady Gaga, Symphony will adapt to the beat. It’s incredibly mesmerizing and soothing as you click furiously at anything that moves, while weaving and dodging anything that comes at you and frantically trying to scoop up all the friendly music notes.
"There is so much potential for creativity when mixing two highly imaginative mediums as music and games," said Francois Betrand, co-developer of Symphony.
"It’s sad to see that one particular type of music game was “milked” to death and gave the genre a bad name for a while," said Shores. "But I think you are seeing a fresh take on music games today (i.e. Sneak Beat Bandit, etc). We’re hoping that people really enjoy what we have done with Symphony. It’s not meant to be Guitar Hero or Rock Band, but something totally different."
Symphony definitely isn't like a traditional rhythm game, where timing is everything. Even though the gameplay is dynamic and adjusts to the beat, the freedom to shoot at whatever comes at you is liberating, assuming you’re playing it on a comfortable difficulty setting (there are 6 total). There’s still a goal and a purpose as well bosses to beat, so some skill is needed to get to the end.
From our hands-on time, we saw a range of tracks, from classical music to Fatboy Slim run through Symphony's processes, and it's a game that feels tailor-made to your tastes. Tempos can make a difference in terms of how quickly you'll blast through waves of enemies, but it doesn't make the game easier or tougher to pick an ambient track versus 180 beat-per-minute drum n' bass. You'll need to find the right balance between the rhythm of your selected song and the urge to furiously click away on your mouse in order to maximize your multipliers. The aforementioned Fatboy Slim track ran some eight minutes, so it was definitely long enough for us to make some rookie mistakes and recover, yet feel some real satisfaction at the end of the stage.
Check out the videos to see how the game plays. Symphony is set to be released on August 6 on PC via Steam, GameStop Digital, GOG, Origin and Gamefly Digital.