So as I begin S ranking levels through Thumper, the bombshell known as Polybius dropped. It came out of nowhere. With the 80s arcade inspired graphics, and $15.49 price tag it was a no brain purchase. After downloading it, and playing through a handful of levels, I feel my mind asking me "what the fuck?". Don't get me wrong, I loved every minute of it but... wow. I started to wonder about the origins and inspiration for this game.
A simple search with the word "Polybius" was all I needed to open up a rabbit hole of an alleged conspiracy related to government mind-control. I'm sure a lot of you reading this know what I am talking about, but I wasn't aware. For those who aren't aware there is an urban legend about an arcade game in the 80s named "Polybius" that appeared out of nowhere, and swiftly disappeared shortly after. From what I've read, this game was in a few select businesses around Portland. It's alleged this game was so addicting that it would frequently cause fights between people watching and waiting to play. Some claim the game completely wiped the memory of some, and drove others to kill themselves. There are also rumors of "men in black" routinely checking the back of the cabinet, presumably gathering data from players. The Simpsons poked fun at this urban legend in episode #351. Is the conspiracy true? There is no definite evidence. My personal opinion is that it did exist. According to the creator of this game, the 80s Polybius is real. He said he had a chance to play the legendary arcade game in a warehouse and that he later made his game based on what he remembered. There's definitely subtle elements in the game that give recognition to the alleged history and theory of the Polybius arcade game. One of my favorites was after you beat the game "Uploading information to illuminati....." . The creator definitely nailed what he was aiming for with this game because it's a psychological mind-fuck.
Boiled down it's a retro styled arcade shooter. The object of the game is to shoot stuff, not die, survive the environments, get a high score. But Polybius isn't that simple.
It seems like the game plays tricks on you. I think at one point it swapped the x axis on my controller. But I couldn't remember if it was always like that. Sometimes the "guidance tracks" that are supposed to help you, lead you into getting hit so you can't always trust them. Not to mention they disappear and reappear often. I recall a couple times failing a level over and over and eventually it loaded the same level, but everything was backwards/mirrored. Polybius messes with your mind. In what ways? I don't know. But it's all just fun and games...right?
The fun really picks up when you make successful combos by "field goaling" your ship through "bull horns" placed/scattered along each level. Combos make you go faster, raises your score, and add to your "deflector", a small window of time that allows your ship to take a hit without losing a shield. Losing all your shields means game over. Some of the levels are difficult but nothing impossible.
There are boosts you can get, appropriately modeled after pills. Some protect you, some slow down time, some add deflector time, others I'm not sure. I'm still confused. Oh and shooting cows is highly encouraged.
While not revolutionary, the graphics are fantastic and they satisfied that craving I had since I first got my PSVR. It's a visual theme park not for the faint of heart. At one point "can this give me a seizure?" crossed my mind, but I had already gone to hell and back at that point. Anyone with any kind of epilepsy should definitely pass on this one. The game has warnings that you must agree to before it will even start.
The music is good and appropriate. The sound effects are satisfying and unusual. Typical arcade sounds mixed with random samples of screams, spitting, and others. The unusual sounds fit the game like a glove box of a DeLorean DMC-12.
Although I focus mainly on VR, the game is fun outside of VR. It offers 4k resolution and is 3D capable if you have a 3D TV. Part of me wants a 3D television just for this game.
Polybius is a great game and an instant classic. I think it deserves a spot on my top 10 list of favorite games. It filled that craving I had for something out of this world. A craving I had since I was a child playing my NES. With the visuals, gameplay, price, and 50 levels of bizarre insanity, there is no reason not to own this game. Unless you have epilepsy or a fear of it wiping your memory.