Audiosurf as inspired a great many developers to follow boot and release their own rhythm inspired indie games. The latest to hit the PC is Symphony: Liberate Your Music, from developers Empty Clip Studios. Symphony is not just inspired by Audiosurf, but also the likes of dual stick shooters such as Geometry Wars with its strikingly bright and frequently chaotic on-screen action. One glance at Steam or GoG will show just how many rhythm indie titles have been released over the years, so does Symphony have enough going for it to be worth your attention?
Music collections are in need of liberation, that's pretty much all the back story you'll get or even need. While its commendable that a story was even included in a rhythm shooter, it serves little purpose except to give an ounce of meaning to boss battles. As is usually the case, levels are generated from your music collection and turned into gameplay that's inspired by the likes of Galaga, with your ship being able to shoot in just the one direction. Enemy ships enter on beats and obviously the faster paced the song, the more difficult the level. The boss battles appear in the middle of tracks, requiring you to free a classical composer from the evil hands of some daemon or some such, like I said, the story serves little purpose.
So far, so typical. However there's a surprising degree of depth in how you fit out your ship with the many unlockable weapon types you're given access to purchase after the completion of each song. To take on the more challenging levels of difficulty, thought must be given to what weapons you want to equipped and there direction of fire, which can be adjusted to different degrees allowing for a more spread out shot, if that's your preference. This mechanic is far from new in arcade shooters, but without it Symphony would feel a lot more empty and lifeless. The ability to experiment with how you set up your ship as its charms, and is required if you wish to aim for the high scores.
Symphony finds any music files of various formats without much trouble and a clean user interface makes filtering songs and artists a breeze, so finding your favourite tracks is easy. Gameplay is a familiar bright neon affair and on faster paced songs can be overwhelming. Spotting enemy bullets or simply dodging enemy ships can be a challenge in the tight space of the play field. There were certainly times when I suffered a few cheap deaths because I couldn't see what was going on, making the fact that so much space goes unused frustrating. Symphony doesn't quite match the likes of Audiosurf in communicating the impact a track as on gameplay, but it does just enough that you'll take notice.
Around twenty songs are included with Symphony, and for the most part they offer a good variation of styles that change up gameplay. Electro to a little classical jazz is included, and while your own musical collection is the real star of the show here, its still welcomed. The lack of controller support at launch is worth mentioning, though gameplay can get so hectic that I can't see myself switching from the swiftness of a mouse. There's also been issues with the game not importing much larger musical collections for some users. Hopefully this issue will be fixed as quickly as possible, after all your music is the reason to keep playing so this bug is a great shame.
Having played a fair share of rhythm games over the years, many of which have been forgettable and lacklustre, I'm happy to report that Symphony is worth your attention. While its charms are not obvious at first, there's more to it once you dig a little deeper. Experimenting with the many weapons and how you fit out your ship had more depth then I was expecting, and the fact that its all just rather well put together makes Symphony: Liberate Your Music one of the more recommendable rhythm games to hit PC in the past few years.
Thanks for reading,