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It’s hard to describe what exactly Proteus is. A video game is the easiest way, because it uses controls and takes place in a world of pixels. But at the same time it has no enemies no tools, no goals, no points… none of the traditional components that make up a game. Proteus is more like an interactive audio walk in a psychedelic forest.
You start off arriving in the ocean looking towards a randomly spawned island that changes every time you play. As you walk towards the beach, the music starts playing. The soundtrack is dynamic, changing depending on the different components around the island. Trees and rocks, as well as human made structures like forts and houses add different layers to the music. Animals make noises as you chase them around. The time of day, season, and weather all have an effect on the music, making Proteus a kind of interactive song.
The joy in this game comes from exploration. As you see new elements and structures you can’t help walking up to them and sitting down to see what this new discovery has to offer to your soundtrack. It’s a tranquil game that requires you to sit, listen, and watch just as often as you slowly walk around from tree to tree. It’s something that is usually hard to do in a video game, but Proteus tries to make it easy. Getting into Proteus might take a little time, because it’s not like a normal video game, and can’t be played as one. But as soon as you see the beauty in the game it’s going to be easy to watch an hour fly by as you just enjoy your surroundings.
One small part of the game that I really appreciated was the ability to play Proteus with just a mouse. Usually a computer game requires me to be hunched over my keyboard, but while I played Proteus I could recline in my chair, putting forth as little effort as possible. It added to my feelings of relaxation and peace as I explored the island.
But this peaceful game does have some issues, mainly the fact that it’s a little too simple. The simplicity is one of the components that makes this game work, but there could have been more work done on the pixel art, randomizing engine, and variety of things to discover. The pleasure of this game comes from discovery, so I was a little let down that after an hour I’d pretty much seen it all. It’s pixel graphics could be better done as well. The changing colors in the game are amazing, but the actual shapes and outlines of objects are super basic. This would have been ok a couple of years ago, but now a game like Proteus has to contend with other pixel art based games. Minecraft, for instance, is less beautiful, but a more interesting and dynamic game to explore because the environment has more randomness and variety.
Proteus is not a game that I could ever sit down and play for hours at a time. But it’s been a great game to pick up for 15 minutes at a time and end with a smile on my face. It’s a feel good game, and will leave you feeling magically happy when you decide to finish your journey on the island. For a modest price of $10 this is a game that’s worth picking up and checking out. The simple happiness you’ll get out of it will be worth the price.
(Note: This review was written after 4 hours of game play on the PC across multiple islands. The copy was purchased by the reviewer.)