Songbird Symphony is the sort of game that people might find themselves raven about. It isn’t perfect, certainly. There are some songs where the rhythm elements aren’t exactly great, leaving people to wing it with notes they’ve only just learned. Still, even at those times where it isn’t at its absolute best, it’s the sort of game where there are no egrets.
With Songbird Symphony, the foundation can feel familiar. It begins with an ugly duckling scenario. Birb is a chick living among an ostentation of peacocks. He doesn’t look like any of the other birds, and his Uncle Pea is raising him. While his uncle is wonderful and clearly cares for Birb, he wants answers about his real family. So, he heads to Owl for answers. It is there that a great birden is placed upon him. Owl has an artifact in his home with room for six notes. It is up to Birb to visit the homes of different birds and learn their traditional songs. Each one means earning another note and becoming one step closer to the truth. But, while many of these characters are fine feathered friends, there’s a seedy underbelly to this world.
Playing through Songbird Symphony is like going through a Disney movie or Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure. At especially poignant moments, Birb and the other birds around him will break into song in the hopes it will make the player give a flock about what is going on. The difference is, you more often than not end up playing along with the music as Birb repeats back phrases that have been sung. While there is no voice acting, these songs do have karaoke segments with the lyrics appearing between prompts. You peck away at the proper button presses, starting at first with just the up button, but eventually getting left, X, A, right, and Y as new notes. Each song has its own gimmick input, with some being more straightforward than others. After the segment is complete, a statue appears to allow you to rechallenge that track at any time and Birb might acquire a new note to take to the Owl.
For the most part, this is far from fowl. There is usually at least one song per section, with each new species of bird providing Birb with a new note to learn. Things move along at a steady pace, and the songs themselves can be absolute earworms. Uncle Pea’s opening number still gets stuck in my head if I make the mistake of thinking about it, Cassie’s melancholy plea is hauntingly beautiful, and the blue-footed booby chef’s song does has some jaunty riffs that mimic the sounds of a guitar. The problem is, some of these input gimmicks get overly complex without giving you a chance to get used to suddenly having a new note available. Cassie the cassowary’s has notes that fade in and out of existence before they reach the indicator and introduces the A note for the first time. Since a lot of the tracks rely on you knowing what each note sounds like, due to the speed with which they head toward indicators and the various gimmicks, it might not be the best time for people.
What is especially pheasant about Songbird Symphony is how it doesn’t just limit you to these musical moments when the songs come up. Each area of the world Birb visits has its own melody to it, which you get to discover just be getting from one point in an area to another. There will be different incidental activities you can stumble upon that can add parts to a song as Birb triggers them. For example, in an early forest section, Birb can help guide a bee to some flowers. This will cause the spiders near them to start moving in time and adding a harmony to the background track. That same area has a sleeping sloth parent with two babies. If Birb visits the kids, they will start jumping on the parent’s stomach to add a beat. Moving a platform out of the way of a frog couple will let those lovebirds sing to another, adding another layer. Even some level elements, like balloons that Birb can land on and pop to each greater heights, can feel like they contribute a pleasant sound to the overall theme.
Songbird Symphony is follows a little bird with a lot of talont, and it might make the player feel like they could be a better performer by playing along. Some of the songs can be a little tricky, but it isn’t too difficult to feel like a starling. The platformer segments are never too demanding, though some of the mechanisms do eventually involve longer rhythm matching or more exact movements to reach the highest heights. It’s a feel good sort of game, even though some of the story beats are telegraphed a little early on. Still, it might be easy for people to fall in love with Birb and the other birds, especially if you enjoy musicals in other forms of media.
Songbird Symphony will be available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC on July 25, 2019. A demo is immediately available.