Proteus is the resulting piece of work between Ed Key and David Kanaga that takes everything you know about video games, splashes it with vivid colours and stunning music, and throws it against the wall in a fantastic canvas of fun. Since its release, Proteus has been faced with an avalanche of questions as to whether the title is indeed a video game or something else entirely.
Ed Key has since responded to the questioning by defending it as a video game, almost surprised that it got the reception it did after the very well received Journey and Dear Esther titles. Proteus by comparison makes these titles seem complicated; after you have learned the directional keys, you have mastered all of the controls in the game. But how does this title compare overall to these other games?
The God of Elusive Season Change - When you load up Proteus, you will immediately find yourself on a randomly generated island at the start of spring. What you make of the next four seasons is completely up to you, but the transition is powerfully subtle. As you chase frogs into the ocean or try to sneak up on a group of chickens, you will realise that the once glorious sunshine has succumbed to the darkened rain clouds of autumn. It will then hit you just what has happened, and although it is not a life changing experience, it is notable enough to make you stop in your tracks and spend a few seconds pondering. But those frogs are not going to catch themselves!
An Incredibly Strange Self-Reflective Journey - The title offers no explanation as to why you are on this island, nor does it give any indication as to what the long straight line of rocks are or why the ominous black castles tucked shyly behind the clouds dominate the cliffs. It is just something that you will have to invent for yourself and because your brain demands an explanation, you will make up your own reasoning. It is interesting to watch yourself fabricate these ideas and your train of thought and what lead you to come to your conclusions. This is just you satisfying the needs of your basic human curiosity and ironically, it is curious to watch yourself do so.
The Very Image of the Goddess - Proteus is a 3D game, however all the artwork of the trees and rocks are done in 2D planes that rotate to face the player as you circle around the object. Unlike all old games that also did just this, the final result is very pleasing to the eye and makes your explorations around the island a much more pleasant experience.
The Gentle Cacophony of Nature - Each area in your journey will have a different soundtrack which adds to the atmosphere which is a major part of the game. The music and the sound effects are brilliant and almost make the game in some places. A huge factor in whatever half cooked reasoning you have managed to convince yourself is fact is what you hear.
Natural - To spend time looking for the controls is a terrifying waste of time. The moment the game starts you know exactly how to play and the sheer simplicity of the game allows you to use that little bit more of your brain to enjoy your island for the short amount of time you will spend with it.
Too Short - Each island only lasts for about 45 minutes before the end of winter signals the end of your experience. Perhaps a little bit longer would have been nice for the completion fanatics, as there will be that little bit more of the island that you will never be able to explore. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is dependent on the player, but not knowing is personally too much of a frustrating feeling.
There are not many bad things to say about Proteus, mainly because there is not much to say about Proteus at all. It is an incredible release and one that I would definitely recommend to the player who wants to just relax for an hour or so and reflect upon life, the universe and everything. However, if you are driven by a gripping storyline and linearity then perhaps you should look elsewhere.Personally, I enjoyed my time on the islands and have spent a good portion of time wandering around without really moving and just watching me curiously ponder the space around me. Although the title is very good, there is a feeling that there is something missing. But this feeling does not last very long, for the chickens are getting away and it would just be mad not to know where they are getting away to.
*This review was based on the PC version of the game with a review code provided by the developer.*