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Heard about Polybius? If so, feel free to skip on a paragraph or two. If not? Oh, reader, settle in for a quick history lesson. So there's this arcade machine, in the early 1980s, right? And it's got kids coming from all around the local area, in Oregon, to play on it. It's a hit, in no time at all. Out the gate, a smash, one for the record books.
But this game isn't just making kids excited - it's making them crazy, like, they're fighting over whose turn it is, and they can't sleep because they're constantly thinking about the game, and it's giving them hallucinations. And while all of this is going on with the players, there are these guys in suits, literal men in black, stopping by at the arcade, taking data from the machine. And then, just weeks after this hit game debuted... it vanishes.
Or maybe it never existed at all, because Polybius is a classic urban legend: an arcade game that turns its players into nightmare-haunted wrecks, stimulating psychoactive effects in them. It's not been proven that Polybius didn't exist - but at the same time, the stories of its impact in Oregon in the early 1980s are, almost certainly, not everything they seem to be.
In the years since, Polybius has popped up in all manner of places, across the entertainment spectrum. It's in the Springfield Mall in a 2006 episode of The Simpsons. In 2014, it showed up in an episode of The Goldbergs. In 2017, Nine Inch Nails used imagery from the game - well, what is meant to be imagery from the game - for their music video, 'Less Than'. In 2017, an actual video game called Polybius was released, for really real, cheekily taking inspiration from the urban legend. And now, the arcade cab is cameoing in Disney+'s new Marvel TV show, Loki.
A digital-release game and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it spot on the TV are all well and good - but what about the arcade cab as an object to own? Well, now that's a thing, as Numskull's Quarter Arcade range (we covered their Ms Pac-Man cab, in 2020) has produced a special, quarter-sized (the clue is in the range's name) version of Polybius, ideally proportioned for many a work-from-home desk, should the nightmares of your 9-5 existence not be enough for you.
Numskull's take on Polybius is a faithful-looking affair indeed, with subtle but striking graphics on the cab, a stick and single button for, ahem, gameplay(?), and play-pretend slots for your pocket money. Pay to lose your mind: what a thrill. Having been wished into reality courtesy of a successful Kickstarter, this diminutive terror will start shipping to customers in August, and can be pre-ordered here.
But there is a catch, albeit a good one for the sake of your brain. The Quarter Arcade Polybius doesn't play anything. The screen will turn on and swirl around - but the real reason for having this at your work station of choice is that it serves as no fewer than ten USB 2.0 ports, very handy for all those electrical gadgets you've got surrounding your computer (and also very good for powering other Quarter Arcade cabs, too). The cab comes boxed in 'Top Secret' packaging, leaning into the whole men in black vibe, and can be bought in a bundle with a badge and cap, if that's your thing. Because who doesn't want to wear a curse, after all.
Featured Image Credit: Numskull Designs
Topics: Retro Gaming
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