This month on PS Plus Curve Studios released their latest game upon an unsuspecting public. It is fair to say that I have never played a game quite like ‘Proteus’ before. Although can a game with no objective, narrative or character really be a good game?
‘Proteus’ opens with the player coming to consciousness waist deep in the ocean. There is a shape in the distance. You’re not quite sure what it is. You move slowly towards it. The shape is an island…
Although the island is procedurally-generated (apparently no two islands will ever be the same) there are a number of features that appear on every island (pagan stautes, a circle of stones, a cabin and a huge tree). This gives every playthrough a fresh, yet familiar feel. The island is also surprisingly alive, blossoms fall off the trees, rabbits duck and dive through the undergrowth, birds fly and monuments hint at a humanity that has long since expired.
All this is presented through graphics that are 8-bit (almost atari-esque). Do not underestimate these though, they are definitely not your typical pixel-art but rather they are reminiscent of abstract paintings. There is an undeniable beauty in the aesthetic of ‘Proteus’ and you can waste a large swath of time sitting atop a mountain watching the sun rise and set.
The aesthetic is only one piece of the puzzle that makes ‘Proteus’ a beautiful game, the sound direction is; at first, random and directionless. However with headphones on it becomes clear that everything (and I mean everything) on the island creates it’s own, unique sound. Each step forward adds a layer of sound until eventually you are the conductor and audience to your own symphony of perfectly pitched and complimentary music. At times the sound will stop (sitting atop a snow capped mountain for me) it took a few seconds for me to realise this, but it made perfect sense, I was sitting watching the stars come out atop the world. It takes a confident programmer to play with silence…a unique experience. That is ‘Proteus’ in a microcosm.
There is much more to this game than it’s sound and visuals, the island is a character itself and it is a much more developed character than 90% of gaming’s heroes and heroines. The island is layered with surprises and secrets…one of the big revelations is when you realise you are not only moving through the physical plane, but the island too is on a journey. Seasons will change and as both you and the island progress through your respective journey’s you will eventually arrive at the conclusion. A conclusion that is as beautiful as it is affirming. ‘Proteus’ will enchant you until the end (which should take an hour) but it will stay with you long beyond that point.
‘Proteus’ is a free-form piece of modern entertainment that only gaming can deliver. It cannot be explained in words – you have to feel your island for yourself. Load it up to your PS3 or Vita and immerse yourself in ‘Proteus’ world. A game of infinite beauty ‘Proteus’ is very much more than the sum of it’s parts, several play-throughs are required to see everything it has to offer, and they are all very much worth seeing.
Individually these design choices would create a good game. Collectively they make an unforgettable experience.
That’s what ‘Proteus’ is.