Songbird Symphony review

Songbird Symphony Review

A good egg.

Songbird Symphony review

When the world around us feels like it’s going to shit, sometimes you just need a heartwarming story to escape into for a while. Songbird Symphony is exactly that. You play Birb, an orphaned chick living in a village of peacocks. As Birb grows up, it becomes pretty obvious he’s not like everyone else. It’s the classic Ugly Duckling story – except that Birb is cute as hell. 

When Birb learns that a wise owl can help him find his real parents, he sets off on an adventure across the forest. Along the way, he meets new breeds of birds, from chickens to cassowaries and penguins. As the title suggests, music is key in Songbird Symphony, with Birb and friends keen for a sing-song at every opportunity. 

What I love is how goddamn wholesome it all is. There are moral lessons to be learned around every corner, from the virtues of individuality to the cruelty of bullying or even the potential held within scrap pieces of wood. Birb is heart-achingly pure, a feathery bundle of positivity and goodwill towards everybirdy

The music mechanics hinge on mimicry. A bird, or group of birds, plays notes to you and then you copy, the notes appearing on-screen for you to tap in time to the music. Birb’s quest is to learn new notes from each species of bird he meets, which organically increases the difficulty over time.

A small but compelling touch is that the format of the rhythm mechanics changes regularly. Sometimes notes will fall from the top, other times they’ll go around in circles or from side to side. It makes the songs feel so much fresher and more alive. 

The drawback is that visibility is sometimes impaired as a result, such as one variation where the notes confusingly shoot up then come back down again, and another in which they flicker on and off. The arrow keys could also have benefitted from clearer icons, as when things get hectic it’s hard to discern one direction on the D-pad from another.

This aside, the game is generally very forgiving. You can’t die, and the song scoring is generous. Sometimes I’d get an ‘A’ and feel that I most definitely didn’t deserve it for the slapdash racket I’d just produced. 

Sliding block and platform puzzles make up a fair proportion of your remaining time in Songbird Symphony. Though they increase in complexity, they’re still relatively straightforward and always have a reset button nearby for when you mess up. While crates merely need shoving around, platforms are manipulated by parroting back a specific tune, which is a nice tie-in to the game’s musical theme.

As you progress, the level design becomes steadily bigger and elaborate, with more time-consuming objectives. Sadly, this bogs down the pacing. At one point, I had to locate three batteries that were scattered across a level in order to power up an elevator. But to retrieve one of the batteries, I had to help a penguin mum find her eight lost children. To get to these, I had to shift blocks that impeded my progress. When objectives are stacked together like this, it just feels like busywork.

On the bright side, the pixel art is really quite beautiful, giving it a modern flair despite its very retro level design. Levels are vibrant and the characters have an infectious expressiveness. Birb, in particular, is the cutest video game character I’ve seen in ages. His gesticulations are adorable, from how he psychs himself up by running on the spot to the way he puffs himself up and flashes pink when angry. 

While the quality of the art is fantastic, however, assets are reused extensively. This does, unfortunately, take the sheen off when you’ve seen the same character model or level object for the twentieth time. The samey level design also makes it harder for you to find your way, so you’ll no doubt regularly find yourself going around in circles.

It’s a minor fault, but the visuals also suffer from pixel gaps sometimes appearing in-between level tiles – this is particularly noticeable in docked mode, with backgrounds regularly looking as if they’re coming apart.

While its level design is overly repetitious in both look and feel, Songbird Symphony still has plenty to be delighted about. A sweet story, fun musical stages and captivating animation make this avian adventure worth taking under your wing.

[Reviewed on Switch]