Proteus is a difficult game to review. In fact to even label it a game is a source of contention as discovered earlier this year when Ed Key and David Kanaga’s hit title launched on PC earlier this year to general acclaim. Whether it is a game or not is down to your own interpretation and what you want from a video game experience, but an experience it is. To truly appreciate the wonder of this game requires a different mindset; one of your inner-child. The times when you loved to explore, yearned for that sense of adventure; a passion for discovery.
You begin on the waves of the ocean, with a mysterious (and randomly generated) island on the immediate horizon begging to be explored. Arriving at a beach, and seeing the trees around my blowing in the wind I was instantly drawn into the wonder of my surroundings. Just a short walk away from me I could see some chickens, and as I approached them I was greeted by simple chimes as they evaded me. This continued for a few seconds until replaced by musical notes of a different kind as my attentions altered to the frog I had just discovered. I then chased it into the sea.
And this pretty sums up the action in Proteus. There is no real objective. You exist, and you explore. The more you explore, the more rewarding you may find your adventure. Much like a novel, you will really need to put the effort and time into it, and let your imagination flow with the information to truly get the most out of it. There is no tutorial, you are left to your own devices with no map, and no compass so the exploring and roaming will require you to pay attention and use your own memory to remember your way around. The island itself is easily navigated and even though it is random, it does feature the same key locations; just not in the same places. You only real interaction with the world is sitting, which is managed by pressing X.
It took me a good while to truly get to grips with Proteus, as it wasn’t instantly apparent to me whether I was actually enjoying it or not. The experience itself as such is around an hour, enough time to see in all four seasons. This in itself is a wonder to behold even in the pixelated nature of the world and by the end of my first play I had been totally mesmerised by the changes between each one. If you do find a location which is of interest, you can always capture it forever in the form of a postcard by pressing the right shoulder button. These postcards are accessed from the title screen and once picked instantly send you back to the location. Very handy for when you have started a new island.
The art style and visuals are on the surface very simplistic, but don’t be fooled by the still shots you can see. Actually experiencing it in the real time, with leaves rustling in the wind, or falling to the ground in the autumn and the aforementioned seasons it truly is stunning. Scenery in the distance is barely visible, but burst into colour as they get closer. Changes in the weather are noticeable and extremely effective. Whether it is just my perception or not, I began to feel the effects on my character. The searing sun, the torrential downpour or the endless fog, all of it felt real. This is all topped of with the beautiful chords and tunes that Kanaga plays out with all of your movements. Simple, yet incredibly effective; it’s an accompaniment that suits the game immensely.
Once you have ‘completed’ the game and experienced the ending you find yourself at the title screen, where you will be able to start again but this time with a random island or in new features for PlayStation, one created using the current date or via your location. I did my second play with location selected and ended up with some very interesting colour schemes to say the least.
This game though is not for everyone. Many will be instantly put off by the way it looks, and there can be no denying that there is a massive lack of action. The game features 11 trophies with some cryptic descriptions (but no platinum) and supports cross-buy, but at £9.99 does cost more than the PC version does. That said, it has been recreated from the ground up by Curve Studios, who once again have demonstrated their skill at bringing PC hits to the PlayStation platform.
To truly get the most out of the game depends on whether you can appreciate all of this without being put off by a radical difference on how to play a game. It requires patience, and the game is best experienced for when you just want to waste some time and let your mind wander, much like you would do if going for a walk in real life. Much like reality they will come a point where you don’t want to go for a wander all the time and I can see where the limited longevity here may cause an issue for some.
For myself, though, this was a throwback to my youth. The visuals, the chirpy tunes and the expansive exploration which invoked positive memories of my hiking trips to the Lakes with my Grandparents, whilst they made me walk up massive hills awhile losing myself amidst what there is actually to do. If this is something that you can relate to, or you are looking for a title which can just whittle down the time then Proteus may well be for you.