For the purpose of transparency, this review was completed using a review code provided by Llamasoft. The use of a review code does not affect my judgement of this product.
As soon as I launched Jeff Minter’s latest game Polybius I knew I was booting up and plugging in for a trippy experience – did Polybius let me down?
Now firstly there is not story the Polybius, this is just a shoot-em up. The release of this title means Polybius makes a return to gaming in 2017 . From the 1981 arcade game, that was known for causing strange behaviour for its players, to the 2017 version bringing the game to VR (also in non-VR).
Gameplay wise Polybius is very much what you would expect from a shoot-em up title, with the added task of going through gates to boost your speeds. But, be warned; it really does run at speeds like I have never seen before in the genre. Adding the high speeds to the bright colours (which can be very off-putting at times), and the amount of things happening on the screen and the game can become difficult – but not in a bad way. Playing the game does really take you back to the old school arcade games, but fails to add to it outside of the inclusion of VR.
So, how do you lose on Polybius? Well you are given a number of shields at the start of each level, which are basically your lives. Hit anything throughout the stage and you’ll lose a shield. Surviving the level with shields remaining increases the number of them for the next level. As you get further in you soon start to drop shields quickly so make sure you try to save them in the early levels.
The bright colours, the simple graphics and blurred effect when travelling at the high speeds, really makes visuals of Polybius match the gameplay’s retro feel. I just feel that given what is possible these days this could have been spruced up a little, and still could have kept that retro feel. One thing I will say is that it comes with a warning for players who suffer from epilepsy, and this is for a good reason – so I would give it a miss if you suffer from the disorder. One issue I found with the visuals is that the ship you are controlling is very small and with so much going on around the screen it’s easy to lose it – resulting in a pointless loss of a shield.
A big part of the Polybius is the inclusion of the music for the levels, as this is there to drag you in and keep you entertained. Given the style of the game and sticking with the retro and acid trip visuals, it was only fitting that Jeff Minter used electronica music – with the song really adding to the trippy feeling. However, I think the game could have benefited from an inclusion to import your own songs like Starship Disco (read my review here).
As mentioned above Polybius can be played in both VR and a standard mode. For me the standard mode seemed a lot more boring than the VR – sitting with all the trippy stuff happening around you was a much better experience. However, this could be because I played the VR mode first, meaning that playing it in a 2D environment just didn’t feel the same. One thing I like is that Jeff Minter and Llamasoft have given the option for players, and not restricted it to one platform.
Now longevity wise, I think Polybius will last a long time for people who remember/loved the old retro arcade games, and for the high score chasers out there. But, if you do not fit into one of the things described, I would say you will know if the game is for you by watching the gameplay video near to top of the review.
Finally I would like to mention that some people will suffer from motion sickness from this if playing in VR. Personally it did not affect me, but I know from the speeds it will affect to those who are prone to suffering from it.
Priced at £13.99 in the UK Polybius might seem a bit steep for what it is offering, but if you think you fit into the description above it could be money well spent.
If you have any questions about the review, or want to let me know what you think – feel free to tweet me @TattasticGamer
Polybius is a game that is an assault on all your senses, but it really does fall into a niche market of gamers – meaning you will either love it or hate it. The inclusion of both a VR and standard mode is welcoming, but it also comes with some flaws, which could have been improved on.