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Proteus Review

(Image from Steam Game Page)

With mixed emotions, I sat down with Proteus. How can you enjoy a pastel game if all you do is wander around? Can you gain pleasure from something that appears to occupy precisely the opposite pole after all these works, full of loud shots, expressive people, narrative twists, suspenseful mood, and big challenges? Let’s give it a go.

When someone like Peter Molyneux says that he is working on a project that will stretch the boundaries of what we understand by the term game and cause us to look at the world in new ways, his pronouncements should be greeted with great skepticism. Products bound by commercial regulations, even if they originate from new and original notions, eventually return to the beaten road, influenced by market trends and ensuring at least good sales. We’ve seen it hundreds of times: it’s intended to be a revelation, but it ends up being cliché. It is different when an independent creative is in charge of producing such a conceptual work. One who does not have investors, marketing departments, or bailiffs on his tail. For example, designer Ed Key, who is making his independent gaming debut, and his buddy, musician David Kanaga. The guys announced a production with no aim or storyline, with gameplay centered on wandering and absorbing sights and noises. In the game business, anything like this would be unimaginable. Meanwhile, Ed and David had completed their mission. Their work, Proteus, is out of the ordinary, unorthodox, and entirely unique.

(Image from Steam Game Page)

Enchantment is felt when first meeting Proteus! I cautiously approach the sandy coast, wading in ankle-deep sparkling water. The sound of flower-covered trees rustling in the breeze, birds sheltering in their crowns, and insects chirping in the lush, thick grass replaces the tranquil murmur of the waves. Above these noises is another – long-lasting, deep, hypnotic music tones that appear to come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. The island, which is our primary activity here, is bursting with life and has so much fairy-tale charm that I fully immersed myself in the gaming world. My feeling of discovery increased my excitement, compelling me to investigate what was behind the next hill. My inner kid rejoiced because the areas visited reminded him of his favorite Moomin Valley and other fairy-tale regions, the memory of which – as it turns out – remains quite vivid in me. The minimalist visual design inspired my creativity, which led to new interpretations of what I discovered on the island. But it wasn’t only the visuals that drew me in to the wonder of this non-game.

From the first step on the pale sandy beach until the final moment when my virtual self, leaving the island, closed its eyes and allowed itself to be engulfed by the blackness, Proteus sang his steady, captivating melody to me. This production’s noises account for at least half of its overall impact. We are witnesses to the island’s life cycle, which includes everything from the greatest peak to the tiny worm scarcely visible above ground. All of this results in a fantastic, ever-changing music that sounds both exotic and familiar, filled with a peculiar nostalgia and creating a contemplative numbness. Each season experienced by the player has a distinct sound that highlights its mood, in addition to its specific palette of colors and occurrences occurring around it. The entire symphony! The game of strolling about the island and appreciating the vistas, in my opinion, acts as a representation of what is going on in the realm of sound, rather than the sound functioning as a background for the game. It almost makes no sense to play the game with the sound turned off. Meanwhile, the song itself is flawless. Even as I type these lines, my character is sitting by the sea, listening to the waves, the nighttime singing of cicadas, and the bright, deep tone emanating from the island’s depths.

(Image from Steam Game Page)

But what lurks beyond Proteus’ creative persona? What mysteries does this brilliant and colorful island conceal? The view of what the gaming environment offers is entirely subjective. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the ever-moving wheel of time? Perhaps a comment on the passage of time? Is it a little paradise? The hints we find along the route cannot provide a conclusive answer. The developers have gone to great lengths to guarantee that everyone who enters the realm of Proteus has a particular, one-of-a-kind experience from the game as well as their own interior. However, I got the idea that they went a little too far in terms of preserving form and content. I was really captivated by what I learned after my first meeting with the island. Knowing that the game world is recreated each time I start it, I went back to explore it again. Unfortunately, disappointment was in store for me here. Despite the fact that the terrain of the region has altered beyond recognition, I didn’t uncover anything that I hadn’t seen during the initial survey. There was actually enough stuff available at the same time. This is not to say that future trips no longer bring me joy. Only the thrilling experience of venturing into the unknown was gone.

During the first gaming, Proteus gives us the impression that this is not a game. It also ceases to be an unexplored land with the second. So, what happens once the first enchantment fades? For me, a private zen garden where I may escape from the stresses of regular life. Also included is a great music box that plays strange noises while being friendly to the listener and putting you in a nice condition. I’m gradually forgetting the deeper insights that accompanied me on my initial visit to the island. This minor absence of material is the sole drawback in Proteus’ otherwise flawless performance.

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