Monday, November 4, 2013

Proteus Review

I'm not going to be structuring this review like my others, trying something a little different out here.

I hadn't heard of this game until it released on PSN last week, and I don't think I would have heard about it at all had it not been featured on the official Sony blog. With all of the excitement around the holiday season and the PS4 launch, I nearly missed out and I'm sure a lot of other potentially interested people did too. The game was available for almost a year on PC/Mac before it became available on home consoles and was included in one of the Humble Bundle releases, so I'm surprised I hadn't heard of it until now. Official site is located here.

There weren't many comments on the post, and the few that were there consisted mainly of people threatening Sony to sell their Vita because there are "no AAA games for it".  The other third of the comments were mainly complaining about the price point of this game, saying it was too high. I'm generally not the type to just jump in and randomly buy a game I haven't heard anything about... especially for more than $10 (I believe I paid $11 something with my Plus discount). However, I'm a sucker for artsy/exploration games and 8 bit graphics. They had me at "randomly generated 8 bit island..."

This game is one of bizarrely charming serene beauty. The entire environment is welcoming, and yet remains foreboding in many ways. Its amazing how something so pixelated can look so impressive. Most of these graphics would look right at home on the Atari 2600, and yet they meld together to make up an oasis of simple tranquility. I've never been very picky about graphics, but in all honesty I almost immediately forgot I was playing a game with simple graphics.

The emphasis in this game is focused on exploration. You're thrust onto this island without any instruction, any goal or any destination. On most of my playthroughs, I spawned walking on the water. There are various animals around - what I dubbed "frogs", "bugs", and "chickens". There is a surprising variety of plant life, and the entire island (although abandoned) feels alive and fun. Fog rolls in, rain clouds drift by, and colorful leaves fall from groves of mismatched trees.

Eventually (I won't spoil how) you're given the opportunity to advance through the seasons. The first time I had gotten to that point, I wasn't really sure how I did it or what was happening. The color pallet changes, and the life on the island transforms too. Most everything on the island changes completely from season to season, and seeing the changes as I explored each one was one of the more rewarding pieces of the game.

Without spoiling too much for you, many of the objects in the game react to your interaction with them. This interaction is sometimes obvious - the "frogs" hop away from you, "worms" scream and duck underground - and sometimes extremely vague - bumping into the "stumps" or "rocks" around the island send a puff of smoke or spores spiraling off into the sky. Some other objects don't react to you at all and instead leave you guessing what they are for (the cabin in the picture above, or this owl I found flying from tree to tree at night).

Each time I revisited a different island (you've "beaten it" after progressing through all the seasons) I discovered something new. My first time through, I missed what is perhaps the most significant thing on the islands...a ring of extremely cryptic statues. Interacting with these statues at the right time and place has one of the most drastic effects in the game aside from the season change.

You might assume the trophy list would offer up some helpful hints about things to do in the game, or when/where to interact with certain objects to trigger an effect. You would be wrong. It took days of multiple people playing and reporting in to determine the meaning of the trophy descriptions...some of which are still a mystery. For example, the gold trophy description is as follows:

 Unraveling the Landscape: Some of these developed stone rows or processional walks that channelled the approach of both the dead and those wishing to commune with them.

 No kidding! All of the trophies follow this odd pattern. You can read the list HERE if you'd like.

As I transitioned from fall to winter in the game, you could really get a feel for the dead of winter. There were no animals. There were no leaves falling. There were no musical interactions. There was only the cold, dark, sadness of winter time. Any fun you were having with the other seasons seems slow and weak during the winter. Living in a place where we get pretty harsh winters (and with winter on the way), I was actually pretty shocked at how such a simple game captured my emotions from that difficult time of year so successfully.

The "ending" of the game was really neat, and made me smile despite the harsh winter climate around me. It was a really nice ending, and the sky in my game had an 8 bit "northern lights" aurora that made it even more perfect and tranquil.

I really suggest checking this game out if you have a loose interpretation of the word "game". If you don't mind buying an experience rather than gameplay, this is one to check out. It seems that people either loved it or hated it. I had a really fun time with it, and going back to play again has always been rewarding. I'm still missing a few trophies from the list, and the game is so small I'm choosing to leave it installed. I really enjoyed playing this. If you're hesitant, wait for a small price drop. But if it appears as a plus freebie, definitely do yourself a favor and give it a try. This is something special flying under the radar, buried by Killzones and next gen releases and black Friday sales.

As always, please like TG on facebook to stay up to date with my posting and ramblings. Plus giveaways very soon! :]

No comments:

Post a Comment