Calling Proteus a game is incorrect. All you can do is walk around, look and listen. This game has existed long enough, however, where I do not feel at all bad about telling you everything I experienced in it, because let’s face it, it was fucking weird.
When you load up the game a screen like that above will appear. You click the island to start and dive in. Every time you start up Proteus, the island is different and you are offshore a good distance. After the long swim (which feels like it is supposed to build anticipation) you come to shore and you start to get an idea what you just bought. Everything is in saturated colors and the visuals make Minecraft look like a graphical powerhouse. Everything is in these bizarrely basic Atari-level graphics. But that is not the cool part. Obviously. What’s so unique about Proteus is that it is about wandering around and discovering. The things you discover aren’t cool loot or terrifying enemies, they’re sights and sounds. Strangely, at a lack of other stimuli, you then start to react to the game emotionally, which makes it a more deep and tactile experience.
I came ashore in Proteus and there were a bunch of pink trees with leaves falling from them, which made a beepy drifting noise as they fell to the ground. Walking further I found a frog and chased him up a hill where I found the ruined towers. This tower had a weird chiptune bag-pipe music. That’s the best fucking way I can put it. Walking up to the thing I noticed my screen blink black. When I turned around, I was elsewhere on the island. I stepped away from the imposing broken-looking structure and found a path, which bordered a forest. Just inside the forest was a flock of birds that bloop when they peck the ground. I figured they must be chickens. If you walk too close to them, they’ll chirrup before skittering off, tinkling the whole way.
I walked along the path and found nothing of particular fucking interest. By this time it was getting late in game, and my natural gamer instinct kicked in. “Fuck! The zombies are going to eat me!” but the game lilts softly as night falls, making comforting and sleepy noises. Really pretty, and no zombies came out looking for my brains. I’ll tell you what I did find, though. Fireflies! I heard weird little bloops that came and went and looked around only to find little lightning bugs flashing here and there. I wandered around for a bit and saw some sparkles like falling stars in the distance, spinning and writhing. I got there and found a mass of spinning sparkles. As I entered the circle, it condensed and formed a portal. Already time was flying by around me, so I stepped inside the portal. I was at the same place, but it was a little different.
So after wandering around more I found a circle of totems, these made a low whirring noise and the stars pulsed wildly like they were exploding then retracting then exploding again. Eventually this stopped and a storm rolled in. Nothing in this game seems to follow any kind of logical sense, though. There are simple effects and things that react to your presence (standing stones that shoot sparks and make a noise as you walk by, animals to chase) but nothing all that interactive. At one point I went through the portal and came out into a sad autumn land with a graveyard. Seriously. I am pretty sure it wasn’t there before, but it had a bunch of sparkles everywhere. I also noticed that clusters of sparkles would pulse into existence, then disappear. When I left the graveyard to search for the portal again, I saw ghosts playing peek-a-boo with me behind trees. Weird.
Finally I entered the portal again and came out into a desolate snowy waste with dead trees and over cast with clouds. It began to snow a little, which added some sound. There was very little, and this took away most of the fun of the game at this point. I went around and there was very little of interest, so I looked for the totems again. I couldn’t tell if it was night or day, since the sky was blocked out. I felt claustrophobic too, and wanted to get above the low-hanging clouds. When I found them, the totems were emanating a weird chanting noise. Suddenly I began to float upward. The chanting got louder. I saw the mountains, a huge fucking tree I found earlier and went to those landmarks, but I kept moving upward. A couple falling stars whished past me as I drifted up and up toward the moon. Finally my eyes began to close slowly until the screen was black. And the title screen slowly loaded up.
I have to assume this game is some kind of weird analogy for life, you start off fresh and new and everything seems to be in a state of springtime. You step into the portal and time whooshes by and then it is summer. Summer is full of more weird shit, there are some bees and the sun is pulsating hotly. Step into the portal again and it is autumn, the world is full of trees dropping leaves and death. There are spirits and ghosts and I even found a graveyard. Step in again and the world is dead. You find the place of passage and you pass through the clouds, out of sight and into the heavens. Yay, fun. I wish I had dropped acid or ate some ‘shrooms. Might have made the game that much more enthralling. Of course, I would be the fucker to find the only way to fucking die in a game about looking around and listening to everything. If you want to play this game, it is available on Steam for 3.99$ due to the Steam Summer Sale.
It is hard for me to recommend that anyone else buy this game. I liked it, it definitely made me feel something different. But this is not something for standard gamers to buy. It is weird and experiential. You will find things in here that are neat and fun. Everyone will feel something about this game, whether it be hatred or ecstasy, but to say it is a good game would be a vast overstatement. Art is to be looked at, enjoyed and explored, and with more than just a few key clicks. Don’t buy this game if you are looking for a fun little game to waste some time with. This is not that. It is more like a visual and auditory vacation from everything else that leaves you on one side of a massive wall or the other. Do not buy this as a game, buy it as a piece of art, for it is to be enjoyed lightly, perhaps over a pipe of some strong weed.
In a game with music and bizarre visuals where I always had one eye-brow quirked, I still found something to be angry about. And that is the fucking reviews on Steam. Seriously! It is like everyone is taking some fantastic drugs and loading this baby up! Everyone seems to agree this is a game you come into just to wander around and enjoy being away for a while. You get sent to a pristine island of singing things and happy-happy times! Not to mention, this game has better scores than games that work harder and give you more. But I have another theory! This game is actually the waiting room that demented gods send their human sacrifices through! Each day in game is how long it takes in the real world for them to send another one through. And at night you are sent to the next level of this insane purgatory! Finally at the end, you are so bored out of your mind that you are happy to let the world melt away and drift into the air to be consumed – mind, body, spirit – by your god(s). Take that, you hippy-ass art-as-experience pricks.