A while back I was moaning that the games industry was not giving me enough experiences. I was playing lots of good games, but they all left my mind as soon as I finished them. There were exceptions. I still consider Walking Dead (the adventure not the FPS) as one of the finest gaming experiences I have ever had several months after completing it. I was overjoyed when I discovered a game called Proteus. After reading the stunning review by Ian Bogost, I had to try it.

It is as perfect as it is imperfectNow, the difficulty with reviewing it comes in two ways. The first is that Ian’s review is so good. The second is that the experience of playing Proteus is unique and hard to explain without spoiling it for others. However, what follows is my attempt to explain what it is and why you should play it. This is not a standard review, nor is it a standard game! It starts in the first person to try and give you a feeling for it and it goes on to a more technical look at the game.

The definition of what a game is has been an ongoing argument for the industry for as long as there has been an industry – if not longer. People get very upset when you talk about games as art and vica versa. For the time being, accept that this is a game and it may be art. Also accept that it may be neither. Finally, accept that it is an experience that some may enjoy and others may not.

The start of the year.
Proteus begins and my eyes open for the first time. I can see that I am in water. Across the expanse of water is an island. I turn left and right, but see nothing but the island. My gut tells me to head for the land mass and see what there is to see and do – after all, I am the player in a game, aren’t I?

ProteusProteus looks familiar, yet totally alien at the same time. Trees look like trees, but different. The ground has grass on it and flowers and even animals dancing around. However, they all seem different. As I move, I notice that the sounds of the world change with each step. Everything seems to have its own note or series of notes. Movement becomes a symphony of discord. Not unpleasant, but not normal.

The island is not large, taking a few minutes to walk from end to end, but there is a lot to see here. As I wander, explorer is the wrong word, I pass what looks like ruins of towers, maybe there is more here than at first glance.
It is beginning to get dark, but that just makes the island more intoxicating. As owls (I think that’s what they are) hoot and shooting stars fall, I see a hill I had not noticed before. There look to be people standing on it. I rush to the hill, the sounds of the world filling my senses. As I reach the summit, I realise the truth of what I had been looking at. These are not people, but statues. My heart sinks as I realise a stark truth. I really am on my own here…

Looking down on the island, I notice what seems to be a whirl pool of stars. I head towards it, maybe there is more to this than it seems.

Something like a review
Ok, so that is how the first 20 minutes of Proteus feels to play. You quickly realise that this is not a normal game. There are no bad guys, no plot lines, no obvious paths or choices to be made. There is just the island and the secrets that it may hold.
The graphics look like something you would remember from the Spectrum days. Blocky, pixelated and in stark and often clashing colours. What makes Proteus so engaging has a lot to do with these graphics though. They feel familiar but unusual and alien at the same time. This really adds to the feeling.

ProteusAs I say in the first part, sound is also unusual in the world of Proteus. Everything on the island has a unique sound associated to it. Rabbit like creatures bounce around with bell like jingles. Following one gives you an almost beautiful soundtrack of your journey as the bells clash with the sounds of plants and trees. Again, unlike anything you will have experienced in the past.

It is traditional in a review, to talk about the gameplay. Proteus has nothing that you would associate as gameplay. The only real mechanic here is curiosity of the player. The compulsion to explore and discover what may be over the next hill. However, there is one thing that you will discover that will change how you view the world you are in. I can’t spoil it for you, but night and day are not the only changes to be seen. The game plays out over all four seasons – you just have to discover how to move between them.
Each season brings new things to experience and unexpected changes to the island. Some make you question everything you thought you knew about the island.

There are some other interesting things you should know about Proteus. The first is that the island is unique every time you play. It is generated randomly for you, so no two visits are identical. You are also able to save a snap shot of your visit. This is more than a simple picture, it contains the digital DNA of your island that you can use to revisit it whenever you wish, or even send it to another person to experience.

Giving Proteus a score out of 10 seems pointless. It is as perfect as it is imperfect. This is the vision of a game designer who wanted people to experience something different – something that it achieves with ease. For me this is a game that scores 10 for everything. The graphics, sounds and gameplay (as it is) are all perfect for me. You may give it 0 out of 10. I respect you for that. That is the point of Proteus I feel. It opens a conversation with you that can end after 5 minutes and leave you totally untouched, or that can continue with you for as long as you want it to.

Enjoy your visit to Proteus.

The Good: Unique, beautiful and a true experience
The Bad: May not be for you

Sunset Memorial The Watcher Winter A lovely day

Gameplay: Gameplay - 10 out of 10 10
Graphics:   Graphics - 10 out of 10 10
Sound:      Sound - 10 out of 10 10
Overall:     Overall - 10 out of 10 10

Diamond Y Award

Diamond Y Award