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Symphony: a procedural shmup that uses your music

Symphony will work with any song in your music library, turning it into a procedurally-generated shmup.


Symphony, from indie developer Empty Clip Studios, is a vertical shooter that caters to the customized musical taste of any fan. It's unique in both its fluidly artistic visual style and story-driven premise.

The story for Symphony is that an unknown force has abducted a "Symphony of Souls," taking your music and corrupting it for his own twisted ends. The unknown force's army must be taken out over the course of several hours' worth of your own customized playlist. Players unlock numerous weapons and upgrades over the course of the game, as they unlock boss battles and venture towards the final battle with the game's unknown antagonist.

As in Audiosurf, Symphony will work with any song in your music library, as long as it's longer than a minute and a half. After picking one of six difficulty levels, the game will analyze the track and procedurally construct stages and enemies accordingly. Like any bullet hell shooter, I was able to fire away by holding down the mouse button. One cool aspect of the game, however, saw enemies slowly chip away at my ship with every successful hit, rendering my weapons less potent. Inspiration notes allowed my ship to regenerate parts, which helped keep me alive before I ran into a large number of foes.

Enemy waves are determined by the song, so prepare to be bombarded whenever your song hits a major crescendo. I was constantly barraged with attacks from a fleet of enemies during Foo Fighters' "All My Life," with only a few breaks when the song's pace slowed down. Meanwhile, Jeff Mattas picked out "The Bends" from Radiohead and was quickly ambushed from nearly all sides during the song's beat-heavy opening.

"The Bends" was selected about 20 minutes into our playthrough, which led to our first boss battle. The boss was introduced with some brief dialogue from the game's unknown antagonist. He was dispatched just as quickly thanks to the ship's advanced weaponry. Symphony will feature about 25 bosses in total, each unlocked as the player gradually progresses through the "Symphony of Souls."

The visual art style for Symphony is mesmerizing. Games are played out over a colorful vertical plane, changing colors throughout each song. Blasts from both enemies and the player's ship consist of colors from varying spectra, with impacts creating waves that ripple through the area. All of it is played under a horizontal equalizer barrier up top that follows the tempo of the chosen song. There's a lot of visual stimulation, but it's hard to differentiate what's artistic and what's dangerous. Jeff and I both died several times when we couldn't see a small, colorful enemy blast coming towards us.

Symphony looks to be a lot of fun, regardless of what your musical taste is. Jeff and I tested Symphony with a variety of musical styles, picking out Foo Fighters, Radiohead, The Gorillaz, Nirvana, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg, ending with Deadmau5. Each experience was different and each one was enjoyable. Meanwhile, the story-driven focus and customization options help set this game apart from other music-based titles.

Symphony is set to arrive on PC and Mac on August 6.

This Symphony preview was based on hands-on play with a PC version of the game provided by the developer.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
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    June 27, 2012 5:00 PM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Symphony: a procedural shmup that uses your music.

    Symphony will work with any song in your music library, turning it into a procedurally-generated shmup.

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      June 27, 2012 6:17 PM

      This looks cool. Would love it even more if the game came to consoles, as I have a sizeable collection of music on my Xbox and PS3.

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      June 27, 2012 6:28 PM

      sounds alot like Beat Hazard

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        June 27, 2012 7:10 PM

        I love Beat Hazard! Symphony's different in the sense that it's a vertical shooter, while BH is an eight-directional shooter more in the vein of Geometry Wars. Also, Symphony's definitely more story-based and feels like more of a campaign, while BH feels like a casual pick-up-and-play title.

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          June 27, 2012 8:32 PM

          Any idea how long a campaign is? Did you guys have to make up a playlist for the game to choose music from before you started playing or was it randomized from some folder? It sounds like a pretty cool game.

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            June 27, 2012 11:29 PM

            The devs had some music from their own library all set to go. The music in the game will be entirely comprised of your own library and you pick what song you want to play.

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            June 27, 2012 11:31 PM

            As for the campaign, it took Jeff and myself about 4 or 5 songs to reach the first boss. There are 25 bosses in total, so you're looking at a pretty lengthy campaign. I'd estimate at least 10 hours.

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          June 27, 2012 8:42 PM

          Neat I'd love to see a game like this that's a side scroller shootem up.

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          June 28, 2012 1:13 AM

          Beat Hazard makes my eyes bleed. I applaud the idea, but despised the execution.

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            June 28, 2012 7:31 AM

            Same here. Beat Hazard would be a much better game if the graphics weren't so overkill with the particles system.

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              June 28, 2012 10:10 AM

              At least on the PC, there's a handy setting for changing the intensity of the particles. I've not played with it on 50%, but it seems to fix that "problem".

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      June 27, 2012 7:29 PM

      This sounds like a lot of fun.

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