Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Otaku Review: Proteus (PSVita)

Proteus knew all things—past, present, and future—but disliked divulging what he knew.

When I search the wonderful internet for unusal titles to review I always stumble upon a discussion about one particular game.  Usually discussions on the internet are like a school yard fight - pointless and usually end up with one party calling the other names; well in the modern age it usally is a meme expression that parties current mood.  Anyway, I am straying away from my original point - the discussions for the game in question do not end up like this though.  They usally end up with the two questions;  What is the point of this?  What am I doing?  Two very simple question but it is amazing how many different responses you get.  The game is called Proteus.

Let us get the burning question out of the way before we begin.  Is it a game? Yes it is a game, it has an action and a goal but it is more of an experience and everything inbetween is what truely matters.
So, what is it you actually do in Proteus?  You wake up in the ocean facing a randomly generated island and all you need to do is walk to the island to explore it.  That is is.  There are no enemies or direct interaction.  All you do is explore what is layed out before you.  See this is where a lot of gamers will just walk away with out giving it a chance to show you want it needs to show you.
The island itself is something quite remarkable - the first thing you will notice is that the graphics are that which you problem saw during the Atari era (or in a history book if you are too young of course).  The other thing you should notice is the music - breaking through the gentle ocean waves you will hear the island.  Yes, you may think I have lost the plot but the island is musical.  Everything which happens there, every which you do there has a musical response.  Upon my first adventure to the island I was greated by rain.  We all hate rain but sometimes you may find yourself sitting back and listening to it, finding it very relaxing; this is what happened here.  Each raindrop has its own note and when you bring them all together what you are left with is a very relaxing atmosphere. The rain did not feel bad, it felt welcoming.
As well as creating depth the sound effects make you interesting in the game and its surrounds.
For example the frogs; when they are sitting still they are croaking and this is represented by a ver low distorted note.  When you move closer to them they begin to jump away.  This is represented by two ver high pitch notes.  Everything has a sound on this island which is made by a different instrument and the remarkable thing is that it all fits together.  Nothing ever sounds out of place.
You are the conductor on this adventure and you are creating a symphony out of nature.  I found my self chasing or moving closer to objects to hear what they sound like. The funniest sound has got to be the chickens - as you get closer the effect used mimics perfectly how frantic these silly creatures can be!  The intruments used are not ones you would find in an orcastra but rather generted on a synth.  This is not a bad thing as it makes the whole world feel more alien like and thinking about it, this is what the developers wanted.

I must admit, I did not fully understand what the game was trying to get across at first but it was not after the first season change it dawn upon me what I was doing here.  When the seasons change it is just magical.  You get to see the whole island shift to the next season in a very short time showing you how precious time is and how much we are really missing.

We have always said that in the big blockbuster games that the environment looks great and that a lot of time and money has been pumped into it but be honest to yourself have you ever taken it in fully?  Have you ever stopped in the middle of the action to take a good look around?  The answer is no.  This is what Proteus is doing here. You are exploring this island and everything it has to offer.

In the gaming world we live in every game is trying to compete with each other. Whether it is a full on clone of another title or a slight variance, they all pretty much evolve from each other. This is not a bad thing - like I have said before, gamers do not like change but the unique spark in video game design has died. In Proteus though, it is not afraid of being different. In fact it knows it is difference and it does it very well. It does not try to be something it is not. It lacks the traditional elements of gaming we know of these days whether it being shooting something until it breaths no more or by solving puzzles until your eyes bleed. Instead of being, let's say distracted by these elements you are free to really take in the environment. Even in its Atari style graphics you can easily see the beauty it is trying to convey.

Personally I try to take in a lot of the detail in when I am playing games. Not only has someone spents months on the grahpic but the world would not be what it is without them. It is hard though because this is not what you are suppose to do. So when I first started to explore Proteus' world I felt right at home and understood exactly what it was trying to do. Yes, some will hate this and may be waiting to be told what to do next but that is the whole point - life has no guide so why should this? We are stuck following rules every day of out life's and this has spread into out gaming experiences. Why not just open you eyes, take a deep breath and enjoy what is out there?

You will become lost in various ways whilst playing Proteus.  You will become lost on the island very easily.  With no instructions or map you will be wandering around aimlesly trying to work out what to do next.  I am not going to explain what you must do as it will spoil the experiences but I will give you a clue - most of the magic happens at night.  Another way of being lost is within the game itself.  If you have the right mind set this will come very naturaly.  You will become absored into what the game has to offer and you will be thinking about the experince long after you have finished it.

The game itself is one of very short length.  You can easily complete the island within an hour but the experince will last a lot longer.  You can quickly run through the island triggering the seasons changed but this is not what the game wants you to do.  Take your time with this one - enjoy everything it has to offer you.

People loved Journey and to be honest there is not a lot of difference between them both.  They are both about one person with a simple goal.  The only difference was the hype and the studio name.  I wonder if Proteus hasd the same would it have had us talking about it in a different way?  No, it would not have.  Players say they dislike this title due to the graphics.  I would love to live in a would when we remember that the core of a game is the gameplay and not the graphics.  You could argue that this is not a game, I understand but it has the foundations of a game; it has an action and a goal - everything else in between, well, it is up to you as the player to make the most of it and what it has to offer.

Most indie titles are not for everyone and this is no exception but this one is slightly different - please if you get a chance to have a go, whether it is in a cheap indie bundle on PC or even around a friends house, you may find something in the games simplicity or maybe not - we are only human at the end of it.
Is this game a life lesson? In a nut shell - yes it is. Stop staring at your screens, get outside and enjoy what life has to offer.


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