The title screen to Polybius. It's full of stars.

Polybius is the videogame as fairground ride. You must be this tall to play. Scream if you want to go faster. I can’t hear you, I said scream if you want to go faster.

Polybius is a Doug Trumbull dreamscape – the 2001 stargate made game, the TARDIS in the time vortex. This is your brain in slitscan.

Polybius is the dull thump thump thump of the sound of a sweaty club dancefloor heard from the bar, the bogs, somewhere, it’s walking from the sidelines to the euphoric centre, the relentless drive of the music building, building, building and…

SHIELD DOWN

Polybius. It's a psychedelic tunnel.

If Slave Of God is the game as local nightclub after one too many, Polybius is a case of white labels, a warehouse and let’s hope the fuzz aren’t onto it.

It’s a game that grips and releases like no other I’ve played. It is dance music. It is the videogame rave. It’s really incredible. It is a night out, in. I don’t know how this works, it just does. Trust me. It works.

Polybius is purest videogame. Polygon spinning, pixel shattering, the ultimate arcade videogame. The very definition of The New Arcade, impossible in 1983, oh so possible today.

Polybius is I, Robot, Polybius is the modern Blaster, Polybius is Tube Panic. Polybius is Horace Goes Skiing?!? Polybius is a lot. Seriously, it’s so much.

A screen from Polybius bearing the words "smile upon fluffy sheepy". It is an explosion of colour beyond that.

A game that dares to wear the name Polybius has to go hard. No questions, that’s the deal. Polybius goes hard. Polybius, the game, earns its mythical, legendary name and then some.

Polybius is a Nine Inch Nails video. I don’t know either, it just is.

Polybius leaves me breathless. No exaggeration, no kidding. I can only play it for so long before I need a bit of a sit down. Problem? I’m already sitting down. I haven’t worked out how to deal with this yet.

Llamasoft are at the top of their game right now, Jeff and Giles leaning in to the beasty, furry, psychedelia. Reaching deep for the soul of the arcade, pulling out videogames that feel profoundly digital, made from finest ones, zeroes and silicon. Implausibly ending up with videogames to dance to.

Riding the outside of a tube in Polybius

Polybius is a few years old now and unjustly ignored. That feels like a wrong that needs to be righted, you know? Even to a die hard Llamasoft admirer like myself, it feels special in ways I can’t put into words anywhere near well enough.

Maybe a sound then? Yeah, that’s it. A sound.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

That’s the one. That’s Polybius.

Like the man says, scream if you want to go faster. Press X for enlightenment. Yes yes yes.

Matt’s (Delta to its friends) is what you get when you cross the Star Wars trench run with Douglas Trumbull’s 2001 Stargate and throw in a healthy dollop of Warp-esque sounds. In other words, it’s an incredibly astounding looking and sounding thing.

It’s currently kinda lost being 360 only and having been available through Microsoft’s XBLIG service but I’ve got my fingers crossed for ports in the near future. I mean, just look at it. Look at it. That deserves to be on anything and everything that can run it.

Years have passed and it still looks absolutely astounding.

OK, you can stop looking for a few minutes now. And relax.

(apologies for the lower quality video than I’d like, for some strange reason YouTube refused to play nice with it so I’m kinda stuck with that for now)

[originally published in March 2015, amended for 2020]

As videogames go, I think we can safely say Bezier is a videogame. I mean, just look at that, right?

In some ways it is, visually, to arena shooters what Minter’s tour-de-force GAME FROM THE SPACE FUTURE Space Giraffe is to the tube shooter. A slightly raw, incredibly digital affair where you’re always uncertain what it’s going to land on you next.

But of course, there’s only one Space Giraffe and Bezier, whilst not pulling its punches in the visual department, it’s certainly a far more controlled affair. Then again, what isn’t a far more controlled affair compared to Space Giraffe, right?

It’s also some sort of science fiction synth-prog-opera made videogame. I know, it *is* though.

In other words, Bezier is absolutely the sort of thing that I’m going to fall in love with terribly easily.

I’ve been banging my head against a table and trying to think precisely what it reminds me of and I’m kinda glad to be drawing a blank in many ways.

It’s a little bit Buggles, a little bit Jeff Wayne, the videogame equivalent of an eighties Jean Michel Jarre concert and frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me if it turned out that Philip Bak (the author of the game) wasn’t really Philip Bak at all but in fact The Phantom Of The Paradise come back to haunt us but this time with videogames.

It could happen. I asked a policeman and everything and he totally said it could.

A picture from Phantom Of The Paradise
pic source

Thankfully, unlike Phantom Of The Paradise, Bezier isn’t a deeply cynical thing. It is however marvellously committed to its conceits. Chris Donlan covered the “Why Bezier?” stuff in his Eurogamer write up and that’s worth a quick scan over as always.

It’s a game where infusing Bezier curves in as many aspects as the game as possible is the least absurd thing about it. It wears the skin of a brutal arena shooter yet at the very same time the game remains remarkably accommodating to anyone who’s fairly not used to a twin stick set up.

It’s a game that manages to feel comfy and conventional whilst not really being either. It’s quite a thing.

If I were to sit you down and describe the game mechanically, I doubt I’d be able to get much further than “well, you move around an arena and you shoot some things” which may well show an incredible lack of imagination on my part but it’s also a very very accurate description of what Bezier is.

Of course, not all arena shooters are created equally or push players in the same direction.

Whereas something like Geometry Wars is all about chasing the high score, Bezier sort of has that but nudges it to one side in favour of making just playing the game being a thing you’d want to do.

It’s certainly in no particular rush to kill you most of the time unlike most arena shooters that build on arcade templates. A game of Bezier can go on for quite a while because Bezier wants you to see the game. And more so, Bezier really wants you to hear the game.

Which I guess brings us back round to Bezier being the videogame as eighties Jean Michel Jarre concert. Seriously, listen to the soundtrack and you’ll see what I mean.

Bezier is a game that demands to be heard. It’s not Jarre (far too film soundtrack-y for one thing), it’s very much its own thing but! once the soundtrack is heard inside the game it’s clear just how much Bezier shares the same deep love of bombast, lasers and robot voices that defined Jarre concerts in the eighties. You can feel it in your bones.

If only it were all that simple though, the game is married to a wonderfully ridiculous science fiction plot and there’s a giant smiley face that taunts you at the end of each round and you’re a floaty thing with lasers and there’s all the colour and and and.

I don’t know, maybe that’s acid house turning up to sign the death warrant of eighties synth pop or something. Maybe. I haven’t checked with a policeman on this one, sorry.

Regardless, it’s all makes for a captivating, unique and nothing less than remarkable experience. I love it so very much.

Bezier is available from NiineGames right now for yer Windows PC.

[Article originally published in March 2015, tweaked a bit for 2020]

Snowballs and stuff in the neo-arcade game, Tamiku

Grabbed this on a whim because I really enjoyed Zeroptian Invasion (one of those games where I’ve had a draft post sitting there about it for a while that I never seem to get round to finishing up) and well, it looked good. No better reason, really.

And it is good! Less arcade and more a home computer take on arcade games (absolutely not a slight), it’s a single screen game where you race between platforms to pop balloons, avoid the nasties and… that’s it, actually. That’s the gig.

Each screen sees you presented with some new variations of baddies to keep an eye out for and it’s all very, very videogame. Some go up, some go down, some wrap round, some are big meanies and I’m telling teacher.

It’s tough and I reckon slightly tuned to “person who wrote the game” so you’ll need a bit of speed and quick reflexes to get out of a level alive. The red balloon that takes slightly longer to pop can be quite a nerve wracking proposition and frankly, I’m not speaking to the Bomberman style explosives as they’re just rude.

It’s pretty brilliant though! Absolutely enjoying myself playing it, cussing at it and I dunno, might get a balloon fetish or something, see how it goes. Okay, maybe not that.

Proper recommendation for Tamiku though, it’s the good stuff.

It’s on consoles courtesy of Ratalaika, I’ve been playing the PS4 version and it’s good. You can also find it on Itch and Steam for the PC.