Wednesday 6 November 2013

Proteus Review (PS3/ PS Vita)

It’s been a busy year for Curve Studios with a number of releases onto Sony’s digital network. The latest of these is Proteus, a largely experimental adventure based on the concepts of colour and sound. Not a game in the traditional sense, it aims to provide a unique, uplifting and immersive experience for players.

The concept is simple, you are dropped at sea overlooking a randomly generated island. You can then wander around the island and experience what it has to offer. The Vita can also generate islands based on the players location, while the PS3 version will do this based on what date it is.

The graphics are highly conceptual with a vibrant colour spectrum used to put across grass, trees and water in a pixelated, retro style form. It reminded us quite a bit of the look of old BBC Micro adventures - just with a wider colour palette. The island goes through a day and night cycle and seasonal change and each is instantly recognisable thanks to clever use of the art style. It goes to show just what can be filled in by the player when colour and shape are used so well.

 A heavy emphasis on sound is what brings the game to life. The islands are alive with creatures, wind and vegetation. Fire flies buzz around at night, owls fly, while monkeys and chickens scurry across the floor. Each of which have their signature sound. In fact, most things have a signature sound and it turns your journey around the island into a concerto of noises and music that often surprises and delights in equal measure.

There are landmarks to find and paths to wander along but there isn’t really any goal to Proteus. There’s even a button that lets you simply sit and watch the sun go down. There are also numerous events to witness (which we won’t spoil here). It’s a strange one, there’s no reason to play the game other than simply the experience of taking in the sights and sounds, but we found ourselves drawn to come back to it again and again.

There are some riddle-like trophies for those that want to try some puzzle solving but in truth we’ve never been a huge fan of such things. Rushing around waiting for little pictures to ping seems to take away from the main experience on offer which is simply to relax and take in what’s around you. 

Although it doesn’t follow the same structure it evokes memories of Journey and Flower, games where there is little risk but it’s all about the experience of playing around and exploring. There’s certainly a fair bit to see here as well, just no reason beyond the curiosity of the player to go and see it.

There is a time frame to exploration and after you’ve gone through your final season it’s all brought to a close with the shutting of a virtual eye. There are a couple of different endings so exploring again is well worth a go. The game also has an interesting feature which allows you to take postcard ‘snap shots’. At first these seem just like screen shots but clicking on one will take you back into the world to further explore.

It’s clear Proteus isn’t going to be for everyone. But if you are fan of games like Flower, Fl0W or Electroplankton then this could be for you. It provides a bite sized chunk of serenity and for Vita owners especially this could be a great distraction through a lunch break or on a long train journey. It’s more of an interactive ‘experience’ than a game as we might define it but it’s certainly a very interesting piece of software that does things differently and thus offers up something fairly unique. For those willing to try Proteus there’s something quite special here.

Overall 8/10

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