Polybius. Just the name brings to mind crazy conspiracy theories, men in black and brain washing. Well that’s only if you’ve heard the myth: according to witnesses a mysterious arcade cabinet started showing up in arcades around Portland during the 80’s. These ended up disappearing without a trace, and thanks to over active minds, the urban legend was born. It’s definitely worth researching that Polybius, but that’s not what I’m here to review; I’m reviewing Llamasoft’s Polybius on PS4.
Polybius is a psychedelic arcade shooter. You, as the player, take control of what seems to be a space ship and it’s in a constant state of moving forward ala Space Harrier or Race the Sun. Flying across different terrains ranging from planes, half pipes, tubes and others, you’re met with multiple low poly shapes as obstacles. You are left to your own devices as the game says “Do what comes naturally”. This is a double edged sword as the freedom to choose is always welcomed, but not being told what to do, or rather what you can do, can cause its own issues.
Shooting may be the first thing that comes to mind, but it’s possible to score just by avoiding the geometric shapes or by narrowly fitting through what look like bull horn gates. As the score starts increasing so does the speed of the ship, and things start to get a little distorted and you need to decide if you’ll focus on shooting or just avoiding imminent death by rectangle. Although it can start feeling a bit overwhelming, once I got into the zone, everything made sense and I knew what I wanted to do. It’s almost zen like in that way and can be quite meditative.
There is a difficulty spike that slowly rears its ugly head around stage 10 where everything just becomes a real task to get through alive. With 50 stages it makes sense that it wouldn’t be a cake walk all the way through, but it also brings with it a sense of accomplishment when you complete a difficult level. Also, the zany stuff that comes on screen made me want to play more just to see what else it had to say. A couple that stood out to me were “Resist Brexit” and something like “Appreciate your loneliness”. This game definitely has a unique flavor to it.
Llamasoft really made sure that technical difficulties were not present in Polybius. The framerate is at an impressive 120 frame per second, and it even includes an option for 3D TVs on the regular PS4. With the PS4 Pro there’s an option to play at 4K resolution, which unfortunately I cannot test. On the other hand, I was able to play it in PSVR, and I must say it is a unique experience that is almost unearthly feeling, something out of this world. Surprisingly it’s quite smooth in VR, with no discomfort and no motion sickness, even though I was expecting that it would (that’s one expectation I’m glad it failed to meet). I would recommend giving it at least one play in VR if you’re able, as it’s an experience like no other and in my opinion the definitive way to play it.
In the end, Polybius is a complete package. It’s fun, relaxing and just visually entrancing. It hits that sweet spot between visual overkill and boring, and delivers something I don’t think you’ll be able to find somewhere else. The game may not have what most people would expect in a game today, but it’s exactly what you’d expect of an arcade game in the 80s, and to me it’s pretty awesome. I would definitely recommend playing Polybius to anyone who enjoys games and can endure it, as it is something to behold indeed.
Mo is a freelance writer who has a passion for games and usually enjoys anything that has to do with video games. Can be interacted with through PSN: WFMMK and twitter