Proteus

Proteus Review

The game that quietly defies what it means to be a game

A.J. Maciejewski

Reviewed by playing a PlayStation 3 on

Proteus is Cross-Buy with PlayStation Vita

ESRB Everyone rating

As time goes on, more games try to break out of the video game mold. Proteus attempts to do this by stripping out most components that make up the basic video game formula.

Proteus screenshot 1
The sunset never looked so pixely

Proteus is played by exploring a randomly generated island in a first-person perspective. There is no main character so the player can pretend to be whoever or whatever they want. Players walk around while triggering small events such as making unidentifiable critters jump away or plants shrivel into the ground. Almost everything in the game serves no function other than to be eye or ear candy.

Visuals are comprised of blocky and textureless 3D pixel art while the music is ambient and soothing. Music changes depending on your surroundings and what season you are in. It sounds great and adds layers to this otherwise simple game. Sound effects are played as the world reacts to the player's proximity. These sound effects are much louder than the music and when too many are triggered at once it sounds cacophonic. The sound effects really stand out like a sore thumb in this otherwise subtle experience.

Progression is made in Proteus when the seasons change. This is triggered by waiting until night time then finding a cluster of lights to stand in the middle of. The game starts in spring and progresses through the seasons until winter. The environment noticeably changes per season such as brown shades in autumn and snow falling in winter. At some point during the winter season, the player starts to float gradually higher as their eyes close. This marks the end of the game.

Proteus screenshot 2
Seasons and weather change as you casually stroll around

The controls are simple. Players can move and look around with the analog sticks, sit down, take a postcard, or close their eyes. Sitting down does nothing at all and only illustrates the superficial and pretentious nature of this game. Closing your eyes takes you to the main menu and taking a postcard acts as setting a continue point. These postcards are transferrable to and from the Vita so players can continue on the go if they wish. However, this is pointless since the game can be played through in its entirety in one sitting.

Considering the island is randomly generated, one would think multiple playthroughs will feel fresh. This is not the case because you're still looking at the same environments and listening to the same soundscapes. It is difficult to have a sense of direction in Proteus so the game can randomly generate all it wants and most players probably wouldn't notice.

The graphics look simple and colourful. This serves the game well except for the inherent flaw of not being able to know what you're looking at from time to time. When you are in the middle of a cloud, everything becomes white. When you walk too close to a wall, everything looks dark. Sometimes you will rotate the camera in all directions frantically trying to make at least one distinguishable thing appear on the screen. This doesn't happen often but when it does, it's irritating.

Proteus screenshot 3
Winter time means you'll soon float up to the sky for some reason

There are a few features to discover that make the game slightly more interesting. Walking into certain tree trunks will teleport the player to other tree trunks. This helps mix things up a bit, but it's also disorienting. Another feature takes the form of unlockable trophies which mostly involve waiting in certain areas or wandering around in order to accomplish trivial goals such as circling the entire island. Although these add some replay value to Proteus, gamers who don't obsess over getting trophies will probably get a few then never play the game again.

Proteus tries to be unique by offering a relaxing and minimalistic experience. Although it succeeds in doing this, many gamers will feel unsatisfied with aimlessly strolling around a randomly generated and textureless island.

  • + Great ambient soundtrack
  • + Exploring the island can be relaxing
  • - Not much to do other than wander around
  • - Vision gets obscured and sounds get too loud
  • - Very short and not worth playing more than a few times
4.4 out of 10
Gameplay video for Proteus 2:07

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