Years ago, a rumor about a supposed arcade machine created by the government began to circulate. Polybius was a game, supposedly designed for mind control purposes, that had somehow ended up in front of the general public. The machine disappeared and was never seen again. The story, while interesting, was false and helped to inspire a wave of spooky online stories, called Creepypasta. While a number of horror games have been crafted around the idea, Jeff Minter, creator of Tempest 2000 and TxK took the name and created a trippy, score chase game and while it has some definitely interesting concepts, Polybius is created for a very specific audience.
The game puts you in a ship travelling down a path with a series of obstacles to avoid and ships to shoot. Eventually, you will hit jump pads and get different power-ups for your guns, but largely the game has a simple high score chase concept. The big thing that changes how you play is a series of bull horns that you can aim your ship through. Doing so will add a lot of speed to your ship, as well as a deflector shield to avoid getting damaged for a certain amount of time. Eventually, you’ll be moving so fast that it feels like the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey, where colors blur and your mind gets blown.
That score chase is the thing you have to be into, however, if you really want to enjoy Polybius, as while there are technically 3 different modes, they all share levels and are fairly similar to each other. Classic allows you to restart at any completed level, along with the amount of lives you’ve acquired and high score you’ve reached, YOLO gives you one life and no way to get any others to see how far you can go, and Pure makes you start from the very beginning of the game but with the ability to get more lives.
Polybius does offer VR support, but it largely remains a similar experience. It doesn’t feel as intense as say Thumper in VR, but if you are a person who gets motion sick, you probably want to avoid playing it in VR. This also may apply outside of VR for you as well, as the bright lights and loud noises can cause disorientation. The game warns you every single time you start the game from the XMB and it’s not kidding when it says that you really should be careful playing.
Polybius is cool for the person who wants a good score chase game with a neat graphic style. However, the lack of variety in modes and the very real potential for disorientation, even outside of VR, could easily be a mark against it. Once you’ve seen a few levels, you’ve largely seen all the game has to offer, but if you want a challenging game, Polybius might be right for you.
SCORE: 7.0 out of 10
A code for Polybius was provided to Pixel Related for review.