Not Just For The Birds
Songbird Symphony Drips with Cuteness
Covered by Joel Peterson
Sometimes, a game’s “cute” factor is a disparate aesthetic quality that doesn’t inform gameplay. Often in indie titles, it’s used in an ironic or even deceptive way, hiding some darker underbelly. Ecco the Dolphin appears harmless on its surface and can be mistaken easily as the makings of ocean activism - until you reach the horrifying aliens at the end. Undertale’s Flowey adorns much of the marketing like a cute little emoji but ends up being one of the most terrifying characters in gaming.
I think cuteness is best when it’s sincere. With Songbird Symphony on the Nintendo Switch, I was not only instantly charmed by the games chubby avian protagonist, but by everything else it had to offer. It’s all fluff and no talons, a relatively short romp that’s oozing with easygoing delight.
The most adequate way to pigeonhole what Songbird Symphony is would be calling it a “rhythm platformer.” It divides nicely into two primary sections -- platforming and rhythm-based sections. The levels allow for some exploration in Songbird’s beautiful, pixel art game world, encouraging you to pick up collectible notes by interacting with other characters and completing small puzzles. In between, you engage in boss battles where you have to copy bits of song in a Parappa-esque fashion, with holds, taps, and everything in between to keep the music interesting.
Songbird Symphony Is Pretty Eggs-citing
Songbird has you unlocking new button presses instead of distinct powers offering a steady progression in complexity. The simple yet serviceable story is the driving force to push you from one set piece to the next. You play as an orphaned chick named Birb who’s trying to figure out just what sort of a bird they are. Players can finish in a brisk four hours, and there’s very little replayability to be had.
Songbird Symphony is a fairly bog-standard adventure, but one dripping in visual appeal. The pixel art is absolutely gorgeous. From wonderful character designs like the chubby and enchanting Birb, and the various NPC’s that make an otherwise bland world feel bursting at the seams with life, to the heart-melting animations and near seizure-inducing visual flair going on during the boss portions, Songbird Symphony is a total delight through and through. It has all the depth of a crepe pan, but sometimes you just want to run around as a little Birb, listen to some music, and chill out.
I opted to play Songbird Symphony specifically because of its characters and art, and I wasn’t disappointed. If you ask me to play a game about a cute little bird, it’s like twisting my rubber arm. This is the Ugly Duckling rhythm game, a concept you couldn’t get me to come up with if I was drowning in amphetamines. Thankfully, Joystreak Studios did, and it’s a wonderful thing. Although there is some exploration and collecting to be done, Songbird Symphony works best when taken as a short theme park ride. Though it’s more of a teacup ride than a roller coaster, its saccharine sweetness left me feeling satisfied rather than giving me a toothache by outstaying its welcome.
TechRaptor covered Songbird Symphony on Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by the publisher.
Star Wars Pinball Hits The Jackpot
Covered by Alex Santa Maria
For a long while, virtual pinball was pretty much set in stone. Zen Studios put out digital-only tables based on licenses and Farsight Studios put out realistic pinball recreations. Last year, that all changed, and Zen has pretty much become the only game in town. Star Wars Pinball on Switch sees Farsight doing what they do best, collecting a boatload of previously released tables in a fun package with some added bonuses. It's not going to surprise pinball fans, but it's a lot of content for someone who loves two-thirds of the movies.
Star Wars Pinball covers 19 different tables, each one released previously for the various Zen Pinball and Pinball FX games over the years. They cover the original trilogy and the new films extensively, with some newer films even getting multiple tables dedicated to them. There's one based around the Force, one based on Droids (but not the old Saturday morning cartoon), and even some love for Clone Wars and Rebels. What you won't find here is anything touching the prequel trilogy, which is kind of a shame. They're not the best movie, but a 50s Diner table staring surly four-armed informant Dexter Jaxter would really fit in well.
Old and New in Star Wars Pinball
In addition to just playing the tables (in both the classic and superpowered modes from Pinball FX), there's also a campaign to go through. One table at a time, you'll go through various score challenges, such as racking up points in just five minutes or having a limited number of flips. It's a great way for new players to experience everything the game has to offer without being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of pinball on offer. Some of the challenges to go into the more "gamey" modes of the tables, which include slowly blocking Darth Vader's lightsaber and playing a really bad version of Galaga.
That brings me to what's a bit off about Star Wars Pinball. These are fine machines for what they are, but Zen's material has always had a distinct feeling separating it from the real deal. The audio is always clunky, with soundalike actors throwing out movie quotes with reckless abandon. The mini-games are neat the first time you play them, but they're almost never worth a second look and sully the pinball experience. Finally, the ball physics, while much improved over where they started, still feel floaty on occasion. There's a reason that many pinball purists preferred the Pinball Arcade when it was still going.
Everything's Fine Here. How Are You?
Still, pinball purists aren't really the target audience for Star Wars Pinball. What is here provides a meaty experience for Star Wars fans waiting for Episode 9, The Mandalorian, the Obi-Wan show and the thousands of other Star Wars releases coming in their lifetimes. It's hard to argue with the sheer value of this package, which runs extremely well in both handheld and console mode on the Switch. If you haven't played these tables before and you're looking for a quick and easy pinball fix, look no further.
TechRaptor covered Star Wars Pinball on Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by the publisher.