In the veins of Audiosurf and Beat Hazard, Symphony is an indie game that generates its levels by analyzing your own music. However, unlike Audiosurf, Symphony is a scrolling shooter and has a plot. Created by Empty Clip Studios in 2012, the game runs on the RapidFire Engine, the very same engine used by the developer's previous big game, Groovin' Blocks for WiiWare (and later Wii with a retail release). The graphics are abstract, smooth, and have a translucent feel, emphasizing pure shape and color over texture, and the interface is very basic and simple, both qualities of Groovin' Blocks.
The plot goes that an unknown entity suddenly decides to assault your precious music collection (and the included soundtrack), and you must defeat it by freeing the souls of five great composers, stopping something called the Symphony of Souls from allowing this entity to cause havoc. It isn't an especially deep plot, but it's still notable due to the lack of plots in games like this. That, and the entity is pretty interesting; he appears by taking up the whole screen, glaring at you with his Glowing Eyes of Doom, and speaking in a voice that randomly modulates between a normal, tenor-voiced man to a deep, distorted, growly tone. And then proceeds to talk directly to you, the player, often taunting and threatening you.
The gameplay is tight, but how intense it is depends on literally how intense the track is. The more intense the music gets, the quicker and trickier the enemies move. This is also relative to the track; if you put in a quiet one, the most-intense parts of that track will register as the higher intensity mode in the game. The scoring is also different from other shooters. Whereas most shooters give you points for destroying enemies, the enemies drop the points on the field when defeated. Meaning you have to go over and pick them up before they fade away, or you won't score the points. Which is hard when there are tons of enemies on the field almost constantly. Add to this the fact that you lose a considerable amount of points when you die (you otherwise have infinite lives), and you've got a true challenge on higher difficulties.
Your ship has four slots for a range of weapons, each of which can be pivoted to aim a different direction. Each time you beat a different track, you can unlock a new weapon (these will be repeated after a point). You can then upgrade these weapons (all but your starting blasters) by spending both normal points (Inspiration) and points earned by reaching point targets. However, you can also get "Furia weapons", stronger versions of the normal kind, that do more damage, but consequently cost more to upgrade. Another thing to note about weapons is that the stronger your ship, the lower the score multiplier at the end for the leaderboards. Seeing as enemies' defenses increase with difficulty, though, good luck trying to get a multiplier above a fraction. Your real Inspiration and Kudos are unaffected, though, and you earn more Kudos on higher difficulties.
Until you beat the game, occasionally, a boss might barge into a track, staying in that track if you decide to quit or lose against it. You fight a boss three times, in three separate tracks, until you clear a page of the Symphony of Souls. The boss gets harder each time, naturally, and the next boss you fight after one set has different tactics. Oh, and you're timed, but this IS a music game, so it makes sense. And you don't get to submit your score to the leaderboards on that song the first time through either; this is probably because the boss drops a TON of Inspiration after you defeat it.
Tropes surfed over by this game include:
- 100% Completion: Defined by the game as killing all of the enemies. Not to be confused with a perfect game, which is defined at 100% completion without dying. (The two do tend to go hand-in-hand, though—unless you died at the very beginning of a lull in the song, you're going to miss some enemies while you're respawning.) There are separate achievements for getting 100% and getting a perfect game on each difficulty except Pianissimo.
- And I Must Scream: The fate of the composers that are turned into demons. Luckily you can free them.
- Autobots, Rock Out!: This can happen if a boss appears during an intense song.
- Big Bad: The being that mocks you throughout the game.
- Bullet Hell: At higher difficulties and/or with the right music.
- Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: One of the first things the game tells you is not to worry about dying, since you've got infinite lives. The only consequences for dying are losing points and breaking your bonus chain.
- Disney Acid Sequence: Sometimes the visual effects are like this.
- Dimension Lord: The Big Bad.
- Eldritch Abomination: Whatever the Big Bad is, he is very alien and without a physical form.
- Epic Rocking: You can play with songs of any length. Yes, even those over ten minutes, thanks to an update.
- Everything Dances: The enemies spawn and fire to the beat of the music and your fire rate increases when the song gets more intense.
- Evil Sounds Deep: Whatever its voice changes to, the Big Bad's voice sounds deep.
- Excuse Plot: This being and its forces are invading your music, to take over your universe! Strange angle for universal domination, but hey it's an excuse to shoot stuff to your music.
- Gratuitous Italian: The names of nearly all of the achievements (e.g., "Sostenuto", "Col Pugno", "Ostinato", etc.) are Italian, reflecting the fact that most classical musical terms come from Italian.
- Humans Are Flawed: The Big Bad believes this, mostly for humanity having a physical form even though they are intelligent. But...
- Humans Are Special: ...These very things intrigue him about humanity.
- Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Using musical notations for loudness, from softest (easiest) to loudest (hardest): Pianissimo, Pianonote , Mezzo-piano, Mezzo-forte, Forte, and Fortissimo.
- Marathon Level: Any Epic Rocking song. The game used to have a maximum song length of 10 minutes, but a patch removed this limit, meaning you can treat yourself to a half-hour prog rock level whenever you want.
- Meta Multiplayer: In the form of leaderboards. Notably, your leaderboard score (calculated separately from your real score) actually increases if you play with a weaker ship, and vice versa, as a way to make sure that the people on the leaderboards are players who are genuinely skilled at the game and not just people who've played long enough to unlock all the rare, powerful weapons.
- Minimalist Run: There's an achievement for getting 0% completion on a level, which requires you to not shoot anything.
- Multiversal Conqueror: The Big Bad at times claims to be this.
- Musical Assassin: Both you and your enemies' firepower increases during the more intense parts of the song. Shown when the graphics become a more intense color.
- Music Player Game: Of the vertical shooter variety.
- Nintendo Hard: Good luck trying to get any of the Kudos multipliers on Forte or above difficulty.
- Orchestral Bombing: If you choose to play such a song.
- Power Ups: Grabbing notes repairs your ship, and lightning bolts upgrades one of your weapons. There are also a couple of unlockable power ups, including bombs and invincibility.
- Scoring Points: You get two scores at the end of each level. Your true score is simply how much Inspiration you collected over the level (minus 2,500 points for each time you died) and determines how many Kudos you get. Your leaderboard score is your true score with a difficulty modifier; you get more points on higher difficulties and your multiplier increases the weaker your ship is.
- Shoot 'em Up
- The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: The Big Bad speaks and taunts to you before and after you face a boss, and other times throughout the game.
- The Power of Rock: Whenever you play a rock song. Unlike Beat Hazard, you don't need to play an intense song in order to use more firepower.
- Taking You with Me: There are enemies which let off a blast when they die, which can cause an unaware player a quick death.
- Timed Mission: When a boss appears, you have to beat it within a certain amount of time (usually shortly before the song ends), or else it'll escape and you'll have to try the level over again.
- Tron Lines: Everything is made of these.
- A Winner Is You: When you defeat the final boss and free the last composer, the being curses you for thwarting its plans, you're congratulated for beating the game, and dumped back to the usual results screen.