I open my eyes and I’m surrounded by water. All I can hear is the calm rippling of waves. Ahead in the distance I see an island and start to swim towards it. As my feet touch the shore my head is filled with music. As I explore this island the music changes. I am here, in Proteus.
Proteus is a “walking simulator” game with an interesting experimental nature to it. While there are multiple games in which the music affects the gameplay (such as Beat Hazard and Audio Surf) here the “gameplay” affects the music. Everything you observe adds a new instrument or beat to the ongoing track as you explore the randomly generated island. The controls are simple; WASD walks, left click walks forwards, right click walks backwards, the mouse looks around, shift slows your speed, space (rather sweetly) allows you to sit down and enjoy your surroundings, holding escape exits to the main menu, and pressing F9 saves a “Postcard” (essentially a save state) which allows you to be transported back to that point in space and time. No running, no jumping, no hitting things, just walking.
All there is to do is explore, experience the music, and relax. The only form of interaction is your presence on the island; What you see will change the soundtrack, animals will flee from you, swarms of flies will speed you along, and that is all there is to it. This however is not a negative as it is exactly what the game is aiming for.
Day changes to night and seasons pass, each with their own environment bringing new musical additions and feeling to the world. As you observe new flora and fauna through the seasons the music can evoke joy, fear, and dark wonder among other varied emotions. Some things I found while playing have just brought a grin to my face. You make your own adventure, for example; while gathering screenshots for this review I stopped to chase this magical looking frog… just to see what would happen.
The graphic style is minimalist, vibrant and enchanting. Each entity in the world is seen as a group of pixels of one colour; presenting 2D objects in a 3D world. You can look at these objects with nearly no detail and can tell almost instantly what they are. The seasons look perfect and add to the immersion and the whole experience just comes together to make the best chill out game I’ve ever experienced.
It’s difficult to describe exactly what Proteus offers to the player. While wondering the island I found myself lost to the real world, getting shivers in the rain, and my mind being completely enveloped by this new world. The entire experience is one to be felt first hand, everything feels so dreamlike, even when exiting the game; you simply close your eyes and leave the island behind.
There is “progression” in this game in as much as the passage of time, and an ending which has sparked many theories as to the true meaning of Proteus. The end result though is an inspiring passage through a living portrait that blurs the lines between experiments, games, and art. Also when your “complete” Proteus for the first time you unlock the option to have colours be wildly different just to add a new twist to this surreal island.
This is a title which certainly wouldn’t appeal to everyone, but if you are looking for something to relax your very soul then Proteus may well be the perfect game for you. Also each time you play through will be slightly different due to the random generation of the island. Each adventure can bring a new cacophony to your ears and perhaps you’ll uncover a few secrets that are hidden on the island.
Before I started this review I felt that I was going to give it a 9 as I felt like some form of interaction would benefit it more. However as I experienced Proteus again; that feeling dispersed as it isn’t what Proteus is about. For what it does, and what it aims to do, it is a perfect 10.