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Genre: Action
Min OS X: 10.6

The Polynomial - Space Of The Music
September 28, 2011 | David Allen

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The Enemy

Mac OS X: 10.6.3 | CPU: Intel Mac 1.8GHz | RAM: 1 GB | HD Space: 9 GB | Graphics: 256MB (512MB or better recommended), NVIDIA GeForce 8600GT / ATI Radeon HD 2400

Imagine one night you're up late, working on your Mac, or maybe just fooling around on the internet. Sleep overtakes you, and the last thing you see before your head hits the mousepad is your brightly colored geometrical screen-saver flickering on.

The next thing you know, suddenly you're inside your screen saver! You're floating around in space, weaving your way through glowing structures that appear to be visual representations of abstract mathematical concepts, and which are pulsing in time to electronic music. Some of these structures seem to have their own gravitational fields, or can in some way alter your speed and trajectory. You see some pretty space creatures that resemble moon jellies or other bioluminescent sea dwellers, and in general, you have a lovely time just flying around.

Until someone starts shooting at you. From seemingly out of nowhere, belligerent spheroids ("nom-noms") with gnashing teeth are flying toward you, blazing away with tracer bullets, and you've taken a big hit to your health - Things are going south until you realize that you've got guns, too! And from then on, the space battle begins.

This is The Polynomial - The Space of the Music in a nutshell. If you want a briefer description, try this one: "It's like being inside the iTunes visualizer and having evil Pac-Men shooting at you."

Your purpose within The Polynomial is to shoot wave after wave of the evil "nom-noms" and save your space jellyfish friends ("ghosts"), who will also heal you if you fly through them. There are some temporary upgrades to speed and firepower available, and there are more than 35 different arenas to fight in, each of which offers various space structures you can use to your navigational or tactical advantage, but there's no plot or story per se. It's just an extremely beautiful and hypnotic casual space-shooter. So what are you trying to do? There are achievements you can unlock if you have purchased the game through Steam, most of which have to do with how quickly you can kill the most enemies. Scoring is based on your killing efficiency (Kills per minute) rather than your lifetime body count. You can post your scores to Steam if that's your thing. It runs very well on my somewhat elderly 27" iMac, which was pretty hot stuff in 2008 but is getting a bit long in the tooth. The game runs full screen and does not allow you to Shift-Tab out of it, which is a minor nuisance but not a dealbreaker.

This game is all about the graphics. They are not realistic in any sense - there's no exquisitely rendered glints of light reflecting off each drop in a spray of blood as an orc gets his head cut off, for example. The aesthetic is as if the original Tron took place in space - semi abstract, neon colors, dizzying perspectives, etc. The game is subtitled "The Space of the Music" and really, it does seem as if you were flying around in some kind of notional space created by sound. It's strange and gorgeous.


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