Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
In Songbird Symphony, you play as Birb, a little bird who sets out on a quest to find out who his real parents are. Birb has the ability to sing several notes, most of which he must learn from other birds he encounters on his journey, which are the key to solving environmental puzzles and beating bosses. It’s fun, it’s heartwarming, and it’s adorable, much like Birb himself.
Songbird Symphony perfectly blends together platformers and rhythm games to create a refreshing game that showcases the best parts of both genres. The rhythm mechanics are prevalent throughout the game, with Birb having to chirp certain notes to do things such as open doors and move platforms, and with each big boss battle having its own song and specially themed fight.
Before I say anything else, I just want to say that the music in the game is truly excellent. Each song is perfectly crafted to reflect the environment it’s playing in, such as a spicy salsa jam for a fiery cook-off in a volcano, and the transition between each song is seamless. The boss battles are also amazing. Each fight comes with a musical number complete with sing-along-style lyrics, meaning that each one feels like a beautiful crescendo in an ongoing orchestral piece.
However, sometimes the boss battles wind up on the bad side of ridiculous. All of them revolve around the same general mechanic of ‘repeat after me and hit the right notes when they reach a certain place’, but some take it to an extreme. A ‘playing Through The Fire And The Flames on Expert Mode on Guitar Hero’ kind of extreme.
For example, there’s one boss battle in the game where the notes flicker in and out of existence while floating down the screen. While this would be fine if you had only two notes to focus on, this particular battle features four notes – one of which you’ve only just learnt – and has a habit of sending down an entire barrage at once.
Surprisingly, I’m not holding this against Songbird Symphony. Regardless of how bad you do during the boss battles, you’ll still pass, and you’ll always get the chance to redo any battle in order to try and get a higher grade. It’s a perfect anti-frustration mechanic and allows the less rhythmically-inclined to enjoy the game without getting stuck at each major point while letting those who enjoy a challenge test their skills again and again.
The only true downside to this game is how some of the environmental puzzles work. You have to solve environmental puzzles to earn music notes, which help you unlock things later in the game. Most of the time, if you mess up even a little, you have to reset the entire puzzle. This means that you’re wasting valuable play time on having to chirp blocks into the correct place again.
Other times, you might get stuck and find that there’s no hints or any sort of help system available. Usually, a lot of trial and error will get you out of these sticky spots, but it’s still a little frustrating to spend an hour on one puzzle just so you can move forward.
Aside from my vague ire with the environmental puzzles, everything else about this game is essentially perfect. Songbird Symphony is a rare and shining example of a game that seems like a perfect fit for anybody. Regardless of whether you love, hate, or are decidedly indifferent towards rhythm games and platformers, Songbird Symphony will make a nest in your heart.
Songbird Symphony is also packed to the brim with hilarious jokes and puns, such as a group of birds, who are miners, consisting entirely of Myna birds, and a castle full of chickens that’s known as ‘Gallus Palace’. For the ornithologically inclined, the game also throws in several nods toward real life bird anatomy and behaviour, such as how the kookaburra always ‘laughs’ regardless of how it’s actually feeling.
Animal science aside, the game also exudes a strong sense of warmth and community at all times – even during the parts where Birb is laughed at for being different, Birb remains strong and determined to help others and find where he belongs. The zany and colourful cast of characters will charm, enchant, and delight you. There’s birds for any bird enthusiast including peacocks, a cockatoo, penguins, magpies, blue-footed boobies, a cassowary, chickens, an owl, and many more. Each character has such depth and character that, like Birb, you won’t even mind delaying your journey in order to help them all out.
The bottom line is this: Get this game. Songbird Symphony is an extremely worthy addition to any person’s game library regardless of who you are and what you usually play. It’s fun to play, it’s cheery, it’s jaunty, the storyline is motivating and inspiring, the characters all have depth and their own style, and the constant musical numbers and motifs will have you humming for days. We all need a little bit of sunshine in our lives, and Songbird Symphony shines brightest of all.