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Review

Proteus Review

  • Game release: January 30, 2013
  • Reviewed: February 13, 2013
  • PC

Unique and absorbing, Proteus succeeds in challenging the notion of which forms are acceptable for video games.

by

Proteus is one of these games that you get lost in. It could well be described with that most patronising of monikers--an art game. There's no levelling up, no quests, no beating the AI, and no competing online. In Proteus, you simply exist. But to exist in Proteus is to exist in a world full of such surreal landscapes and beautiful melodies that it's an absolute joy to wander through.

The entirety of Proteus is the exploration of an island--a standard island in which trees, hills, and a small scattering of animals make up the sights and the sounds. As you make your way across this small piece of isolated land, the sun sets, the moon rises, and the weather changes. It doesn't sound like much, but the dependable forces of nature act upon your surroundings, creating rainstorms, snow showers, and exposing wildlife. It's a dramatic and touching effect that compels you to revisit the island multiple times. You're largely a passive spectator to Mother Nature as she weaves her magic, with the ability to move and look around your only means of interaction. There's no button to jump, pick up, pause, or punch. On occasion, animals react to your presence (usually by running away), but that's about as far as you can influence proceedings.

Despite the removal of such interactions, Proteus manages to conjure up some wonderfully memorable and engrossing moments. From the colorful sunsets to the more dramatic meteor showers, it's incredible how so much feeling can be wrung out of this heavily pixelated environment. These events are completely unpredictable thanks to a system of procedural generation that creates a totally different island, each time you play. Discussions with others who have played Proteus yield stories of events and images that you have never seen or thought could happen, adding an extra dimension of intrigue that encourages further playthroughs.

Warm sunshine brightens up your initial minutes on the island.

The soundtrack is also procedurally generated, but plays by slightly different rules than the visuals do. Rather than playing at random, sound effects are influenced by where you are in the world and which objects you're near. Stand on an empty beach or mountaintop, for instance, and you hear nothing but the sound of the wind (which may or may not be blowing). Walk towards a tree, and the falling of leaves acts as the trigger to one sound, while nearing a chicken or spiked rock produce other audio cues.

Each sound is abstract by design and bears little resemblance to what such things would sound like in the real world. Furthermore, each noise sounds as though an outdated electronic synthesiser has created it, which is a neat design choice that mimics the retro feel of the visuals. There's no doubting that the resulting audio outbursts are on the weird side of normal, but in the reality that Proteus tries so hard to create, they work admirably and possess bags of charm.

If you're looking for comparisons, then Dear Esther (and to a lesser extent, Journey) is probably the most obvious port of call. Proteus encourages you to simply enjoy the environment and take in what it offers at your own pace, rather than give you a challenge to best or task to perform. However, Proteus is even more open in its design than Dear Esther because there's no straightforward narrative. There are plenty of events to witness and things to see, but it's only the strength of your own curiosity that pulls you through. After you've experienced an entire cycle of weather and seasons (roughly thirty minutes of gameplay), you're left with the feeling that you've walked through an art installation rather than played a game, garnering something new and interesting each time you explore it.

Time passes, and life advances--and withers.

Things do get a little old after you've gone through a number of cycles, but whatever the case, it's difficult to argue against the merits of experiencing Proteus at least once. You might just find something you like, something completely different, or something that emotionally affects you in ways you never thought possible from a video game. And that alone makes Proteus a winner.

The Good
Colourful, dreamlike visuals
Utterly unique
Procedural generation means no two playthroughs are the same
The Bad
Lack of traditional gaming goals limits its appeal
8
Great
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267 comments
jblp24
jblp24

2 bucks today on steam.

Born_Lucky
Born_Lucky

So let me get this straight - you do an extensive review of this piece of crap, but you don't bother reviewing Drakensang: The River Of Time??

 . . . wow.

ChiefFreeman
ChiefFreeman

This little game has this many comments?  It just came out for the PS3 and Vita,  too.   I think it looks beautiful,  but they want a ridiculous amount of money for it; $13.99!   This should be no more than $5.00 .

YumeriaYumi
YumeriaYumi

This is called a game...I mean really. This is more like watching a game. The only problem is that you are watch a game when playing it.

f3kuinth3a55gs
f3kuinth3a55gs

game  /gām/Noun - A form of play or sport, esp. a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck.

 This isnt too bad if you are really wrecked and cant play a real game because your reflexes and/or thought process is failing you, but as a game... well lets just say I can't possibly rate this "as a game". 

I dont dislike it, but it isn't really a game by definition.

DirtyKnicker
DirtyKnicker

I enjoyed it. It was interesting, colorfull and utterly unique. I love seeing games like this in the humble Bundle for so cheap. If someone wants to bitch about this game let them, this game is certainly not for everyone.

shipwreckers
shipwreckers

I just finished the game a few minutes ago, and my biggest grief with this review is that he failed to mention that the "game" can literally be finished in less than 30 minutes (my Steam playtime counter says "38 MINUTES PLAYED" and about 10 minutes of that was me messing around with config menus).

I'd consider that a pretty critical point for a review to cover. Heck, in the [Game Emblems] section for reviews (Art House, Great Soundtrack, Unique, etc.) Gamespot even has a little "Short" logo with a picture of a Gnome warning readers when a game is too short (which this game doesn't have listed above). If there was EVER a game that legitimately needed that little Gnome icon warning, then THIS WOULD BE IT!!!!

So, since Gamespot failed to point out even the most basic observation about this game, I'll warn all you guys right now. THIS GAME IS ____ING SHORT!!!

0rr3n1
0rr3n1

Get it on the humble indie bundle. I bought it along with 5 other legit indie games for 6 bucks. This game aint much, but its definitely worth a buck or two. I sea no problem if you get it that way. Otherwise, 10 bucks is kinda a waste of money for this game.

zeusbark
zeusbark

Sounds like a cool game to play stoned... reminds me a bit of "Heroin Hero"

dkojof
dkojof

I just have two things to share with all of you.. first I want to ask: how many games/interactive arts/screensavers/demos have you done in the past ahn, entire time of your life? the vast majority here has none, not a single hour of work to compare to, and thats saying enough. have you ever thought how childish it is to judge and condemn the work of another person, and even more so considering when not only gamespot gave it a 80 but also the metacritic is at 80? this game deserves this score, piss you or not.

golden1elite
golden1elite

I dont smoke enough good stuff to enjoy this game!

Ryancav
Ryancav

So if the program interact with you it can be considered a game huh? hm, so i was just playing this amazing game right now. You see, i was putting some numbers in my calculator and it interacted with me and showed me some new numbers! WOW!   What a unique experience, no goals, just put some numbers and symbols, and it will show you completely different numbers. Now that's a really piece of retro and magnificent art! Come on, that's not a game, its a screen saver, just like the labyrinth screen saver from the windows 98!

fillup0
fillup0

The comments are just people who don't get the appeal of the game railing on it because they don't like it and feel that nobody else should. Pathetic.

GrahamZ
GrahamZ

Judging from the bulk of the comments below, this is why video games can never be art -- it has nothing to do with the capacity of the media, just the capacity for the audience to get it.

The only bone of contention I think is that it's marketed as a game, and NOT as interactive art.  But that's because the medium and the means of control are game-like. I think that calling it a game might have been a mistake, but gamers are an obvious audience (well, gamers who can appreciate art).


And the reviewer liked something and you don't so he should be fired??? Really???

cubd1
cubd1

An 8.0? Are you kidding? A 5.0, maybe. Developers made no effort to implement gameplay. 

happy321
happy321

WTF is this April fools???

Veteran1985
Veteran1985

Wow, 1980's Graphics with with with with Hell NOTHING! How retarded to give this an 8.0 GameSpot guys must be smoking something other than pot.

4us
4us

what is wrong with gamespot? is there any game review instead of gamespot guys? I need a good quality review and not this

JDFS
JDFS

It is not a game, technically it's a bag full of sh**.


It gets 8/10 while Crysis 3 gets 7.5... wow let's celebrate the retarded Gamespot's logic tonight!

ZionismFTW
ZionismFTW

John Robertson needs to be immediately fired from Gamespot.  How can this Commodore-esque game get an 8 while Crysis 3 gets 7.5?  It's like going to a modern art exhibit with hippie drug addicts who stare with awe at a canvas which has several paint colours simply thrown at it.  What a disgrace.  Shame on John Robertson and shame on Gamespot for publishing this tripe.

SsangyongKYRON
SsangyongKYRON

I'll be honest, I like it. Kind of reminds me of "Flower" by ThatGameCompany. But then again, with all due respect to the developers, it doesn't deserve an 8.

Warsilver
Warsilver

I really don't get it... how is this a fun game? It's nowhere near Journey; more like Dear Esther except just blobs resembling nature and no story whatsoever.

Xero1246
Xero1246

i think this is more of a screensaver than a video game......really really weird stuff.. hope i'm wrong though

Caldrin
Caldrin

The Good 

Colourful, dreamlike visuals 

**************************

Really.. just really.. it looks like somthing i would have playd on my C64.. this is not a good thing..

All this so called retro stuff is just getting silly now..

HKILLER88888
HKILLER88888

if it was 1980 i would have gone WOOOOOOOOOOOOW but no not now...not trying to criticize the graphics but this ain't a damn game...oh i'm sorry it's CARD POSTAL MAKING game and a way to burn daily life time!you can barely review this...ok i think i got it : you open your eyes as you are standing above water so i assume you play as Jesus Christ!who else can walk on water?you walk around while listening to music (which is very good for relaxation if you wanna go to sleep) you walk around and explore the pixel land and see all kind of pixelated creatures ( which you should use your imagination to understand what they are ) until it's night time.then you go in a circle of some glowing orbs and you travel 3 months ahead ( to the next season of the year! ) do this 3 more time and then when it gets night for 4th time you release you are being sucked toward the sky( i guess god calls back his son to home!) and then the back to main menu...do you call that a game?sure i give credit to their music and time and effort they put to program changes of music as you walk around to certain spots and graphics kinda look cute but as a Game....Over rated!!!if it was a 20 minute animation i would have give it 10 out of 10 but as a game i give it 2.0 just for music and interesting programing...other aspect of the game barely courage you to go thought it one more time and there aren't much interesting stuff in it ...and most importantly there is no damn explanation or text that tell you Who or What are you?Where are you?What are you suppose to do and Why?What's with the trees that you run into and teleport?What's with Time Travel?(which is actually good or other wise it would have took 365 days of game to end it!imagine if it wasn't there...that would have been some awesome troll joke to play on your friends like hey man i give you 100$ if you play this game and end it in one go!!there is no enemies,no text,no goal nothing just spend your time for 1 year of game time!!)even Atari 2600 games back in 1980 had score system so atleast you would do something to get a high score!this one...and i can't believe they are charging money for it (10$ i guess ) but let's example a good free game...how about something with similar graphics and music? CAVE STORY that's right! platformer-shooter. it has awesome 8 bit music with 8 bit graphics great story line with more than one ending  and FREE.that game is barely 5 MB it was good enough that they remastered it and ported it to 3DS and named it Cave Story +...
P.S: lone survivor have same graphics almost! or mine craft but let's not compare this with them!the lesson here is not any developer can make a golden game out of retro graphics!

sleipnir796
sleipnir796

I played the game with high hopes on entering a magic world like they said it was. I never found such world. The strong colors, and the random sounds can be really anoying. And the "Exploration" seems like a bad joke to me, the island is too short, the environment variety its low, and the flora and fauna repettitive. If you want to explore, buy minecraft instead, and you will find the relaxing effect intended in this game. 

pip3dream
pip3dream

Well, I bought this "game."  I don't think it's trying to be something it's not - but hey, I like Art and I like getting stoned, sign me up.

binderdundat
binderdundat

Lets compare: gamespot gave Asuras Wrath 5.5 WTF?? because it wasnt really a game. This gets an 8.0 and really IS NOT a game? Gamespot and IGN suck at rating videogames. ANGRY JOE ALL THE WAY!!!

herman1978
herman1978

I really enjoy scenic, ambient games. If this came out on Xbox Indie I'd pick it up for a few bucks. Without having played it, I don't see the experience lasting very long. Fez was brilliant because you could lose yourself in the ambient sound and world along with plenty of interaction and puzzles to solve. I really like this style of game and hopefully they continue to expand this game. 

Born_Lucky
Born_Lucky

@ChiefFreeman It looks like something my 6 year old niece does with Windows Paint, when she's bored..

breathnac
breathnac

@ChiefFreeman well its 8.50 on PSN right now! Probably the lowest it will ever get given the PSN's track record.

SkyAboveThePort
SkyAboveThePort

@ChiefFreeman Or get it on Steam holiday sale for €3,39 if you're interested at all ;-)

Saspisa
Saspisa

@f3kuinth3a55gs

You couldn't have given that much thought. By the very definition you offered it's a game...it's a form of play. 

i.e. 

play  /plā/

Verb - Engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.
Noun - Activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation, esp. by children.

Otacon6669
Otacon6669

@shipwreckers Why would they label a game like this as "short"? You can't finish it, it doesn't end, it is infinitely long. That's like saying minecraft is too short

Ryancav
Ryancav

@dkojof  Wow, so if you buy a house, and the building falls over your head, you can't complain because you have never made a building before or never saw a engineering class, or if the building don't have doors and windows you can't complain because an architect said "it's art" ?  You don't have to be an engineer to know that a house need to have windows and doors, or be a doctor to know that when a patient dies it's a bad thing. And don't trust everything you see on internet, if everyone says that a bag of crap is a bag of roses, don't trust it. If you are paying for something, you have the right to judge it, and warn others people. I bought it, and it's not a game, not beautiful, and not good.

Courtawulf
Courtawulf

@cubd1 Cool. You figured out the game.  Now grow up a bit, and you will appreciate what you've figured out, and you will probably like the game. :)

shanethewolf
shanethewolf

@Caldrin I agree. If he considers this "dreamlike", then he doesn't have much detail, imagination or depth to his dreams.

V-Zes
V-Zes

@Slade968 I agree, and I even made an effort to, but an opinion of that lenght is just too much for me to read...

Proteus

  • PC
  • Macintosh
  • Unix/Linux
  • PlayStation Vita
  • PlayStation 3
Proteus is a minimalist game of pure exploration and sublime discovery in a musical wilderness environment. There are no challenges and no goals other than those set by the player.
ESRB
Everyone
All Platforms
Check out even more info at the Proteus Wiki on Giantbomb.com