Songbird Symphony is an indie rhythm-action platformer by three-person team Joysteak Studios. You play as Birb, an adopted chick in search of its birth parents. Birb runs, jumps and floats around a more or less coherent, Metroidvania-lite platform world covering the realms of various bird species. The rhythm action comes in at the boss battles, which are musical challenges with no platforming elements.
The game’s two personalities really are that separate: apart from a small mechanic of operating lifts by chirping brief phrases in time with the music, the music game stops when the platform game starts and vice versa. The result is not a genre mashup with a startling new flavour, like Crypt of the Necrodancer or Cadence of Hyrule, but rather two separate flavours side by side – fine for fluent gamers up for mid-game genre-swapping.
The platforming difficulty is very laid-back: no enemies and no ways to die or get stuck. Puzzles are mostly contained in small spaces and are not taxing. Exploration is likewise unchallenging but the areas are large and characterful enough to make it satisfying. Controls are robust, with only rare irregularities.
The music sections provide much more challenge. The musical “score” comes in an assortment of formats, some easier to read than others. It’s all listen-and-repeat phrases but the complexity will have you playing by ear more than by reading, as the score progresses into harmonies and canons. S ranks are tough to get and fun, although the difficulty curve is a bit wobbly. Thankfully, a passing C grade is awarded with incredible leniency, so you can just get on with the gentle platforming if you prefer.
The music's catchy: lo-fi midi-style stuff, cleverly making the most of its follow-the-bouncing-ball sing-along lyrics in place of voice. Interacting with the music lifts its appeal and it can withstand a few playthroughs without getting old. The main theme will get into your head in a way that is annoying and entirely appropriate. Graphically, most of the pixel art is charming and funny, a couple of weaker elements stand out but they are not around for much of the game.
Songbird Symphony hasn’t uncovered some magical gameplay combination by crossing platforming with rhythm action. However, if you think you’d like to play a good, easy game in that unique space, with some headroom for more advanced music gaming, Joysteak has delivered with style and humour.