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Radiohead has long been known for its compelling collaborations with animators and video artists, which have resulted in cool music videos, performance projections, and graphics. Now the band has now extended its interest into the iOS world with PolyFauna, a strange sonic tour through a decidedly eccentric audiovisual realm. It’s not a game — there's nothing to win, nor a final destination — but rather a wacky piece of interactive art that is deceptively simple to navigate and oddly soothing, even for those not usually turned on by Radiohead’s expansive, moody musical stylings.
The basics of PolyFauna are simple: you are thrust into a murky, hypnotic environment where bits of pixels swim by — odd lifeforms that you can spawn yourself by single-finger swipes on the screen. Two-finger swipes let you swivel your point of view around, and you can pivot your entire view by moving your iOS device around in front of you — or straight up, which lets you stare into a black sun that dominates the sky in some of the scenes.
At some point, a weird red circle will start to close in, swooping by and avoiding you; but following it finally brings it up close, at which point the image flashes and shatters, and you find yourself in another landscape with new sounds and colors. That’s the whole enchilada: an exploration that reveals new areas to poke around in, but not much else. And there’s the rub with PolyFauna — we wish that it had some more variation inside of the individual landscapes, as things get repetitive somewhat quickly.
As you move around, you can take snapshots of the screen by clicking on a camera icon. However, instead of sending the picture to your Camera Roll, PolyFauna ships it off to Radiohead’s primary website, where it shows up in a scrolling column that constantly changes as folks from around the world snap their own views. It’s a fun concept that we’ve never seen before, but it fits right in with Radiohead's mentality towards digital works – this is one of the few bands that encourages audience recording of its shows, and does not frown upon bootleg video and audio recordings being shared on the web.
The bottom line. Even for serious Radiohead fans, PolyFauna may only generate a few worthwhile walks through the trippy terrain — but being free, that’s a stellar bargain.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 7.0 or later
Fun sounds based on Radiohead’s music. Soothing graphics. Totally free.
Limited interactivity and not much variation in landscapes.