Tamiku

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.

Feather, in pictures

Whilst the ambient game has a comfy home on the PC, there’s scant few to be found over on the PS4. Bit of a shame considering plenty would look fabulous on a big TV but whilst console dev remains out of bounds for most people, guess we’re kind of stuck.

Anyway! Feather is a lovely compact be-a-bird ’em up. Float around a really quite pretty island, do a bit of flapping and that, make some nice tweeting noises and occasionally pass the odd other player doing the same.

It’s largely a pretty lovely experience, the kind of thing it’s nice to pop on and relax to for a few minutes or so. Being a bird feels nice, swooping, rolling and diving to your own rhythm. There’s no punishments, no goals, just being a bird. It’s nice.

Five quid well spent, I reckon. It’s one I’ll be digging out when the old bonce gets a bit too sore again and I need something to take me away from it all.

The music can be a bit “stood at the back of Shared Earth picking some incense sticks” but I guess that’s kinda fitting regardless. Not every work can be as sublimely soundtracked as the hauntological nature dreamscape that is Proteus and, to be fair, nor would I want every game to be that. Give me breadth, you know?

It really is a shame that consoles are so far behind the curve on the sheer amount of videogame experiences people are making now, mind. Imagine if instead of the tired action, adventure, RPG, shooter categories that games have sat with since the nineties, consoles had some easily browsable space for “ambient”, “nature”, “relaxing” and all manner of other things that people pluck from their imaginations.

Hopefully this upcoming generation will see that finally shift though. It’s certainly long overdue.

Whilst I’m waiting, I’ll treasure the few experiences like “Feather” that can afford to sneak through the net and give me the sort of chill time I often crave. Especially when they look this good.

Hotshot Racing

Early impressions but it’s safe to say I’m pretty happy with Hotshot Racing so far.

Not entirely sure what I was expecting considering I’d pretty much forgotten about the thing 2 or 3 years back and so was pleasantly surprised to see reviews dropping this week for it. Eurogamer’s review pretty much sold it to me, anyhoo.

A low poly Roger Moore, with his face punched in.

Admittedly I’m having a bit of trouble with Aston (hohoho) looking like someone had wrote “draw Roger Moore but with his face punched in” on the design document and nobody stopped to think whether this was the most aesthetically pleasing choice BUT that seems like a pretty small complaint.

Honestly think I’m spoilt by the low poly stuff Ethan Redd knocks out so anything is going to look a bit worse in comparison, no one person should be allowed to set the bar that high. It’s just rude.

A low poly car going fast down a low poly road

It still looks pretty fine though, all the right bright colours in place for the most part, even the menus are perfectly Sega arcade enough. I like it.

Racing wise, it’s surprisingly more in the realms of the still rather excellent Split/Second (without the exploding scenery and stuff) than Outrun 2 or Daytona, even down to the really aggressive rubber banding. Though, as far as I can see, it doesn’t share Split/Second’s more gentle difficulty adjustment when you repeatedly muck a race up.

It’s not a huge problem but it does mean the racing can be rather unforgiving and mistakes can be costly in Grand Prix mode. A couple of times I’ve mucked up a drift and gone from first to last place with nowhere near enough track left to recover.

Luckily, I’ve been too busy going “wheeeeee” and “whoooooooo” to care all that much. (Figured I best mention it though in case that sort of thing is a deal-breaker for you.)

A low poly car ramming into another low poly car

There’s so much I haven’t had chance to look at yet, mind. There’s so many cars, so many tracks, a few different game modes – it’s a really excessively full game for its budget price! I’m happy enough playing the Grand Prix mode or doing a single race in Arcade mode so I haven’t really felt in a hurry to check everything else out. I’ll get round to it all soon enough, I’m sure.

Maybe? Truth be told, I’ve been playing Outrun 2 for a very long time now and still haven’t bothered looking at half of what’s in the home versions of that. Sometimes there’s enough joy to be had from the main game and the rest is a nice bonus. Like I say, I’ve been enjoying the main mode of Hotshot Racing plenty so, err, yeah. Might get round to the rest, dunno.

I really am quite happy with the low poly wheels on my car going round and round, round and round. Hotshot Racing is the good stuff, full of bright colours and blue skies and that’s all that matters to me.

Polybius

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

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 fucking 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 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.

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.