On initial inspection, you could be forgiven for thinking little of Proteus. It’s spritely graphics seem jarring and, combined with a blend of bright colours, are unforgiving on the eyes. However, put a pair of headphones on, still your doubts for but a moment, and you’ll be transported to a surrealist world where everything is surprising and exciting.
Schizophrenic and chaotic at points, melodically hypnotic at others, it sounds like an opium infused romp through a rainforest
A decent pair of headphones or speakers is essential; Proteus wouldn’t be half the game it is without it’s soundtrack. David Kanaga’s vibrant score ebbs meditatively between synth notes amongst the sounds of imaginary creatures. Schizophrenic and chaotic at points, melodically hypnotic at others, it sounds like an opium infused romp through a rainforest. Key to the audio-visual experience is that the music isn’t kept in a separate room to the game, but reacts to every moment of gameplay, imbuing it with depth.
When starting up Proteus you’ll find yourself floating in the sea next to a silent island. You approach the island, step on to land and begin exploring. That’s it. Proteus is a game without missions, without objectives, and bearing nothing of what one might call a plot or narrative; this is by no means a negative point. Any elements that you would typically associate with a ‘game’ would feel shoehorned in, ignoring the fact that at its heart Proteus challenges our conception of what a game can be, and distracting Proteus from what it really is – bottled curiosity.
From start to finish you’ll find yourself roaming the world of Proteus in open mouthed wonder. Amongst it’s surrealist canvas of pixelated objects you’ll find strange creatures to chase and marvel at, stones that teleport you around the island, and all manner of magical things which affect the island in different ways. The reality of playing Proteus almost surpasses description; it must be experienced first hand to be understood.
My only criticism of Proteus is that there could be more. A couple of hours of wandering will reveal all there is to do on Proteus‘ magical isle, leaving your expression of abject wonder to simmer down to a maintainable considerate appreciation. A larger island with more to see and do would be nice, especially considering the game’s £6 price tag.
These grievances aside, whether it’s for a period of relaxation, escapism, or simple curiosity, Proteus is a game you will find yourself coming back to time and time again. In the history lesson of gaming, Proteus will find itself a key part in the syllabus, representative of a period in gaming history when unorthodox indie developers challenged the accepted conventions of what a game can be.
Image: String Anomaly via Flickr