Neon Bible: The Polynomial, Demo

A videogame, yesterday.

RPS’s own Lewie Proctor tipped us off about this. The Polynomial: Space of the Music is a shooter out now on Steam, boasting a demo, a reasonable £5.99 pricetag and the prettiest screenshots in the world.

Lured by these magnificent images, Jim and I had a play. We then picked ourselves up off the floor for a chat.


Quinns: So, The Polynomial. How many of your minds did it blow?
Jim: How odd that you should phrase it like that. I was just chatting to someone else about what it would be like to have multiple attention centres. So I could be playing Minecraft and stalking an ex on Facebook at the same time. But yes, it’s a bona fide psychedelic game, like you seldom see these days.
Quinns: I found my eyes kept going out of focus.
Jim: We should probably try to described it. It is an arena shooter, but in 3D, right?
Quinns: Right. So, if you imagine one of the space-shooters of yore, but swap all the ships and missiles for the kind of abstract geometric patterns and pretty wibbliness, you’ve got The Polynomial. Oh, and the entire world pulses in time to whatever music you select. The result is just hallucinatory. Is that a word?

Jim: That is a word. A good word. I mean it reminds me of the Geometry Wars axis of neon visuals, but yeah, it’s flying and shooting. And I think Newtonian physics, so you are dealing with true inertia and so forth.
Quinns: I think in breaking Polynomial down into its components, we’re losing something. This game is genuinely jaw-dropping.
Jim: It’s odd actually, because I saw some early version of this a while back, and I remember wondering if it would make it to a finished game, and it has, and it’s quite the thing. In some ways it’s really old, part of that indistinct “just flying about shooting” genre that you don’t see much anymore but on the other it feels almost timelessly videogamey also: the death thing made me feel weird
Quinns: The death effect made me think my graphics card was melting. I need a new PC. But yeah, it feels like a videogame. It feels like what gamers in the 80s might have thought we’d be playing in 2025. And there are enough elements to it, with the Ghosts and the Amplifying Spheres and the Flowers to make it feel nuanced. It feels like future-sport.

Jim: Yeah, it is a sort of 80s dream of the future, precisely because it’s an extension of early 3D’s abstractness
Quinns: Now we’re getting somewhere. Everybody! Play The Polynomial, because it’s an 80s dream of the future. There’s a demo out and all.
Jim: And try not to feel queasy when you die. It’s just not cricket. (And in the game!)


  1. l1ddl3monkey says:

    Cheap hallucinogenics? Sold.

  2. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    I remember an early demo.. and mostly that sometimes when I played it full-screen I had issues getting out of the game.

    Is it easier to use in that sense, Jim? Quinns? Ah well, I’ll try it out for meself anyway.

  3. RagingLion says:

    Weird. What was I doing about 20 seconds before seeing this article? Playing the Polynomial Demo.

    There’s a ‘Quick Look’ of it up on Giant Bomb if you’re interested in some elongated video of it. That’s what put me onto this.

  4. Xercies says:

    I would love Synthesia

    (you may think this is totally unrealated and random but if you think about it its totally connected to what there talking about.

  5. Alex Bakke says:

    There’s not much chance for survivaaaaaal,

  6. Fod says:

    How odd, I was listening to Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible album when this was posted.

  7. Heynes says:

    Meh, I was lured in by the cheap price but ended up vastly disappointed. Ultimately, it was just a glorified interactive music visualizer with shallow and non-rewarding gameplay. The music also doesn’t actually seem to directly affect gameplay much, mostly just “procedurally” generating trivial parts of the backdrop for one to play in.

    • AndrewC says:

      I was also not sure what the win-conditions were. I decided that the win-condition was being able to fly through the end sequence of 2001 and then I was filled with immense joy.

      And some of the baddies are evil pac-man.

  8. Inigo says:

    Jim and I had a play. We then picked ourselves up off the floor for a chat.
    Oh my.

  9. RHAR says:

    Site died, is there anyone who has the OSX installer?

  10. Iltarus says:

    Just tried the demo, and had standard red/blue 3D glasses lying around. It’s teh seks in 3D!

    • RC-1290'Dreadnought' says:

      @Iltarus Red/Blue 3d glasses!? No! It much more trippy when you go for the crosseye technique!

  11. DrGonzo says:

    The demo only supports .ogg. I’m not interested in trying it without my own music so that’s a bummer. Looks cool though.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Also, it crashes if I try to load the game in fullscreen. Not impressed at all.

    • BAReFOOt says:

      Are you from the past? Or have you seriously never heard of OggDropXPd?
      Set the target folder to the game’s music folder, drag your files on there, and done.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Awesome, thanks. Now I just need to someone who can tell my why it crashes in fullscreen.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Well apparently I’m stupid. I can’t get anything other than unsupported file type no matter what settings I try.

  12. dudekiller says:

    The effects remind me of first installing my Voodoo 2 card back in the day and ALL OF A SUDDEN MY GAMES ARE FILLED WITH LIGHT AND PARTICLES AND JOY

  13. westyfield says:

    My eyes! That death animation is inside my head forever!

  14. RobF says:

    Lovely, lovely visuals but I think they forgot to leave a game in there.

    • Fiatil says:

      Yah, the visualizer can be tweaked to the point that it does some cool stuff, but killing the mouth-enemy guys is about as unsatisfying as I can imagine.

    • RobF says:

      Yuss, it falls into a really odd middle ground where whilst the vis is nice, the particle effects pretty spectacular (I love the point sprite explosions, they’re wonderful to just fly into) it’s not got enough to play with as a toy and nowhere near focused enough as a game. Neither sit well together.

      So you’re kinda left with this odd realm of nothing where it hasn’t gotten far beyond “wouldn’t it be cool if something looked like this?”. Which is, obviously, yes, yes, it would.

      I’d hoped that since the last time I’d tried it, it would gain more focus in either department, unfortunately, in the what, 12 months or whatever, it’s had none of that. This sort of put me off punting over the cash for it because whilst I do love dearly how it looks (even if it’s not quite what Minter’s managed in the lightsynth stakes) and reward that, I’m none too keen on punting out for something I’m going to get no enjoyment from after the initial “woo”.

      Wasted potential, sadly. And something you’d -at the moment- probably be better off just grabbing a decent vis package on its own and playing around with that.

      Big shame, really, because it could be so much more than it is with a tiny amount of thought and time. As it stands, we’ve got a £5.99 tech demo.

    • Lambchops says:

      Spot on Rob, absolutely spot on.

      I tried the demo yesterday and while, I thought it looked rather pretty it just lacked for engrossing gameplay. Which is a shame really as when reading the description I was thinking it could be brilliant. Play my music? Fantastic! Pretty visuals? Superb! Gameplay like an old space shooter? Stupendous in theory – but it just didn’t deliver. I wasn’t expecting a massive degree of depth but there was just a complete lack of direction and satisfaction in the game element of it.

      Would love to see this worked on a bit more as the idea definitely has legs.

  15. A New Vegas Bug says:

    I refuse to buy indie games on Steam, 8 of that 9 dollars is pocketed by Valve, it’s modern day slavery.

    • DrGonzo says:

      What are you talking about? Indie’s get a rather great deal. My girlfriend sells clothes and jewellery independently. I can tell you they get a much, much, much better deal than most industries get.

    • Torgen says:

      Can you back that assertion up? I can’t think that an indy would use Steam at all in that case.

    • CMaster says:

      According to indies who use Steam, no, it isn’t true. In fact, Steam apparently pays them a lot more than they’ve come to expect.

    • Dave says:

      Thanks for the link, CMaster, that’s very interesting.

      p.s. @ A New Vegas Bug: Hahahaha.

    • Dmytry says:

      Why so much hating, making up bullshit like this to hurt the sales? What you said about Valve pocketing is totally untrue. If it was true, i wouldn’t have published on Steam.

  16. seras says:

    i’ve watched several videos of it but have yet to notice any impact on gameplay by the music.

    which would be fine i guess, except i thought this was one of the main selling features..?

  17. Reddin says:

    It seems more of a toy than a game from what I’ve seen.
    Might pick it up during a sale.

  18. Xercies says:

    Even the visualizer isn’t really that great, you can’t really tell what the music is really doing to the background. Went through a lot of music and its very hard to tell where the break comes in between the two. Have to say Audiosurf isn’t getting off the perch of best music visualiser game. Which is a bit of a shame because thats not that great for more calmer music.

  19. roBurky says:

    Played the demo. It looks amazing, but I really don’t understand the game at this point.

  20. Sardaukar says:

    I’m currently scheming to put this on a display PC at a nearby store, Microcenter. It’s running a screen that’s… oh… two or three meters across.

  21. Kast says:

    Can’t tell what I’m really supposed to be doing (beyond run over apparent powerups and kill orange mouth-baddies). Am interested to see it has side-by-side 3D gimmickery, though I can’t get the effective… uh resolution, shall we say, that I have with static images.

  22. John Peat says:

    Visually amazing but I think it’s pushing things a bit to call this a ‘game’.

    There’s some bits in there you’d recognise from games but it’s not a shooter in any trad. sense.

    It is stunningly pretty tho

  23. Jake says:

    Yeah I had that as well. I naturally assumed the game just recognised I was exceedingly skillful and wanted me to get a real challenge. Quite how it knew this considering I could barely figure out how to move forward, I don’t know, and it took me a while to figure out that ‘back’ on my gamepad made me fire. In the end I just put it on Insane, died instantly, and quit.

    These graphics + Beat Hazard, then we would be onto something.

  24. Surgeon says:

    I was thinking exactly the same thing after watching Horizon the other night. I feel like I’m missing out :D

  25. Hat Galleon says:

    As far as I understand, the reason it’s barely a game is because it’s barely a game. I think it’s still in alpha/beta, just being sold on Steam in an attempt to have a business model like Minecraft is doing. His website, for example, says that he hasn’t gotten around to implementing campaigns yet. He could try to make it a little more clear that it’s not a finished game, but still. There’s a reason why it’s pretty but without substance.

  26. internisus says:

    I noticed this on Steam, and it does garner my attention. However, I still have yet to come across any kind of music visualizing software or game that legitimately does seem pulse in time with the music, much less generate geometry that seems to have been translated from it in any way. I certainly don’t see anything like this happening in that video. Maybe that upcoming PixelJunk project will manage it.

  27. keal says:

    “And I think Newtonian physics, so you are dealing with true inertia and so forth.”

    Nah. There’s a bit of inertia but it’s nothing like Newtonian. Which is a shame, since it’d add some interest to the combat.

  28. Dr Random says:

    Bought the game two days ago, I can’t play it for more than ten minutes at a time and with the music I’ve plugged into it I see so many colours and lights I’ve forgorne shooting things and instead fly around.
    I have to turn it off and for the next 20 minutes I can still see the patterns flowing around infront of me.

    Few games captivate me but this has really done it for me, but the opinion as stated that its missing alot is true also.

    Love it.. one of those little indie gems that comes now and again.

  29. Drakkheim says:

    Well that was pretty!
    But I kept flying around shooting stuff waiting for some way to start the game.. realized that that was the game.. decided that for 5 bucks more I can pick up Arkham Asylum and get an actual game along with my pretty graphics and that’s where this week’s fun money is going.

  30. Shadowcat says:

    I tried this the last time you guys mentioned it, and was completely underwhelmed for a familiar reason — there was far too little game there.

    I have to say that it’s improved really significantly since then, however. While there’s still very little in the way of game, the experience of playing is notably better, thanks largely to the musical component I think (and also to improvements in the visuals). Yeah, it’s like an interactive music visualiser, but that’s not such a bad thing :)

    A shame about the Steam.

  31. Max says:

    Amazing graphics (love the death effects!) but the gameplay is so very, very meh and only gets frustrating at the higher difficulties.

  32. Shadowcat says:

    That said, I can only agree wholeheartedly that there is huge potential for these visuals to be married to a proper game!

    Perhaps the developer needs to team up with someone who has experience in such things? I get the impression that maybe their talents don’t really lie in that area, and this is therefore destined to remain more potential than realisation.

  33. Anthony says:

    Woo, Arcade Fire. This game looks ridiculous.

  34. Nallen says:


    Not a bloody clue what I’m meant to be doing.

  35. Fitt3 says:

    God, your ship moves slowly.