Proteus (PlayStation 3) review
" like looking up into the sky at a million stars while you're out in the crisp night air"
Proteus is a randomly generated exploration game. You walk around from a 1st person perspective and look at stuff. Although 3D, the graphics are intentionally very pixel-ey, like an old Doom game or Minecraft. You find yourself on an island and walk around looking at the myriad flora and fauna.
There are tons of different types of plants that range from the mundane and recognizable to the fantastic. There are also quite a few varieties of animals. You can't interact with these things in the traditional sense. In fact the only things you can do besides walk around is sit down or take a photo. But many of the plants and animals react to your presence in bemusing and interesting ways. Almost everything you see adds to the game's light and airy (at least at first) soundtrack, adding little tinkling sounds or surprising bips and boops. The background music and these sounds mesh together perfectly to form a perfect little symphony of sounds as you walk around.
The game is very lonely, and can even be a little spooky and scary at night (day and night cycle as time goes by). There isn't anything out to get you, it's just that there is a very lonely feeling to being out at night all alone. There are also some weird occurrences that might give you pause... Mostly, though, the game is about beautiful scenery and discovering things you haven't seen before.
It might sound like a total non-game, and it is often described that way, but in my opinion Proteus is a lot more of a game than many other “non games.” There is something you have to do to finish the game. Telling you anything about what that something is would be a massive spoiler as figuring out what you need to do is literally the only thing you do besides admire the scenery, and the game is very short. The things you have to do are quite fun to figure out and I felt a great sense of exploration and discovery going through them, especially since the game tells you absolutely nothing about what you have to do. You have to totally uncover it by yourself, and it's a nice little journey to do so.
That journey will probably only last you a few hours, and at first it will probably seem dubious that you need to play the game again. But rest assured, the randomly generated island you get next time around will be significantly different than the one you just did, and unless you were insanely thorough your first time around, you will still be discovering new plants, animals, and weird and mesmerizing little events for several playthroughs to come. I just finished my 4th playthrough, and this time I saw 2 new animals I never saw before, notice a few new things about the way things work, and saw a new weird event I never came across before. Some of the sights I saw triggered some real life emotional memories for me, like looking up into the sky at a million stars while you're out in the crisp night air, or staying up all night and watching the sun rise while you are tired. Somehow, this game really captures the mood of those kinds of feeling through its great sound design and minimalist yet somehow very representative visuals.
The game's trophies have cryptic descriptions and titles that give only the tiniest clues about what you need to do to pop them. The long poetic descriptions give a little thematic insight as to what the meaning of the game might be, but you will almost certainly need a guide to tell you what you actually have to do to unlock the trophies. They give you a few little tasks to work on that give you some nice additional motivation to make some more runs through the game, which is nice. If you look up guides on how to get these trophies, you'll find some hilarious message board posts by people who hate the game but want those trophies bad, which is very strange.
I, however, do not hate the game at all. It definitely flirts with the idea of being a non-game, but I think you'll agree that the goal you discover and that fact that it ends makes it feel like a lot like a traditional game. Not that there's anything wrong with non-games, they are fine too, and this would be a good one if you removed its goals. Proteus's beautiful pastel color scheme, menagerie of plants and animals, weird event scenes, great weather effects, and peaceful soundtrack make it totally worth a few go's on its randomly generated islands. It's a 4 out of 5.
Community review by Robotic_Attack (April 21, 2016)
Robotic Attack reviews every game he plays... almost.
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