Review: Proteus (PS3/PSV)

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Title: Proteus
Format: PlayStation Network Download (174 MB total)
Release Date: October 29, 2013
Publisher: Curve Studios
Developer: Curve Studios
Original MSRP:  $12.49 (Cross-Buy)
ESRB Rating: E
Proteus is also available on PC and Mac OS X. This is a Cross-Buy title.
The PlayStation Network download and PS Vita versions were used for this review.

Gameplay:
Wander around an 8-bit wilderness until you’ve had enough. That’s basically all the “game” has to offer.

At the outset, you appear, in first person, disembodied, floating above a body of water. You push the left stick to move and the right stick to angle the camera. Your only choice now is to go toward a nearby 8-bit island. So you go. And then you wander the island. Eventually some other islands appear and you go and wander them. Marvel at the change of seasons, weather and day/night cycles. Then wander more. Then go to bed. Not in the “game” but in real life.

There are groups of pixels who act somewhat like animals scurrying or hopping out of your way. Every time they do they make a horrible racket.

So the “game” ends when, oh wait. It doesn’t end. I mean, it does end by turning it off. The word online is that Proteus has an identifiable ending and that most people won’t understand it and may not get it as the end.

The PS Vita version creates islands for you to peruse based on the Vita’s GPS determining your location. There is an online commercial of a guy in Europe wandering the wilderness, Vita in hand, while Proteus uses his GPS to create a similar 8-bit world to the one he’s walking through. First, the GPS in the new PS Vita model will only work via WIFI and not by true GPS so soon the feature will be largely meaningless as depicted. The generated Proteus world will not be like the real world you’re recklessly roaming by looking at your game screen. Do not play this “game” while operating heavy machinery nor while walking anywhere! That is actually very stupid.

Ever wonder what a GTA game would be like with no theft, no autos and on a small scale, say, less-than-grand? Now imagine Minecraft with no tools, monsters or the ability to do little more than make grass hide. People don’t play Minecraft because of the pixels. It’s a fun game with a specific art style. Proteus is all style but in a far more cynical way.

Visuals:
Fez and Minecraft had a baby.

Audio:
Pixelated animals become self-aware, realize how ugly they are and make appropriately annoying squawks and squeaks while strange plants sense you hovering near and shriek and burrow. At least that is my interpretation of this 8-bit bandwagon-rider.

The sound is not musical. The noises generated by the flora and fauna made it necessary to turn down my sound system so the neighbors didn’t come running to help me. There is no music to speak of, although Curve Studios keeps saying there is music in the way the world noises become cacophonous while you “play”.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only.

Conclusion:
I wanted to like Proteus. I want to like everything. I want to find a gem every time I review another game. I generally think game creators are artists trying their best to make something unique and special for us ground-dwellers to feel good about, something for us to play that helps elevate us somehow. But at the very least they should make a game when they say they’ve made a game. And when they make interactive art they should say that as well. Curve Studios has not said that about Proteus even though it is truly not a game. It’s not very exciting interactive art either.

It makes me wonder to a higher degree whether this whole thing has been a joke perpetrated on the entire gaming universe to see how much crap we’d swallow.

This computer program you run on your gaming console is all app and not real art. It feels like a true cash-in. It feels like the emperor strutting around and shouting, “How about this art, baby?!” And I feel like the kid who shouts, “Hey Proteus! I can see your Proboscis!”

Proteus is what you’d buy if you had finished the internet.

Score:
4.0

Written by Keith Dunn-Fernández

Keith Dunn-Fernández

An actor/director and more lucratively an Administrative Assistant at a small paper company in NYC, Keith loves his games. And he loves to write. And he is a bit of a sarcasmo.

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  • embelievable

    They try to peak the consumers’ interest with this BS, then they make it digital so you can’t return it. If the game is about exploring a virtual paradise, why would it be 8-bit? This is the review I would have written for, dare I say it, Journey.

    • Keith Dunn

      Really? I didn’t feel this way about that game at all. I felt that Journey had a point. I liked the interactions and exploration. Proteus lacks any meaningful interactions at all and has nothing to say. That, for ME, is the deal-breaker. I found Journey’s ending profound.
      But then again, not everyone sees everything in the same way. Maybe if you come back to Journey in 5 or 6 years and play it again it might be a different experience for you. MAYBE, maybe not.
      Proteus is not capable of such a shift in perception because it’s empty.

    • BrianC6234

      You have to be kidding. Journey is bad? Yikes.

      • embelievable

        I suppose there is some brilliant abstract element to it that I can’t come to appreciate. I wouldn’t knock anyone for liking it, but the praise was out of control. Cool idea? Sure. Game of the year? Hell no. I’m not the typical dude-bro shooter fan that you’d expect Journey hate from. I loved The Unfinished Swan for example. That’s the type of emotionally artsy idea that actually works as a game…for me anyway.

  • Nick_Light

    I had the total opposite feeling for this game and experienced some pretty cool things. I will agree with you, the word game is a little too much. But as an interactive experience, I quite enjoyed it.

    ***Spoilers past this point if anyone cares for spoilers on this game***

    I’ve only played through it once, so I don’t know how each experience differs, but it was actually kind of fun exploring the island and trying to figure things out. And the first time the wind blows to direct you a certain way, it actually made my hair stand on end. It was unexpected. Later, I found some creepy ruins that turned the sky red, and then I followed a random pixelated dude that led me to the biggest tree on the island (made me jump when I saw him). The ending, when I floated through some of the clouds to see a cascade of shooting stars with the moon, just to have my character close his eyes, was pretty cool. It was those moments of discovery that kept me interested. I’m going to give it a bit and explore that world again to see if I get different results.

    As far as the music, while not orchestrated like Journey, I did find it perfect for the setting (which you might agree with, but on the opposite end of the scale). I was able to get lost and immersed in my world, and music plays a big factor with that.

    I may be more susceptible to this kind of BS, maybe I made it into what I wanted it to be? But I think I’m like you in the way we are looking for gems (for me, it’s almost like chasing that “Journey” high and wanting to experience that again for the first time).

    All this being said, I liked your review. You reviewed it as a game because that’s what it is: a poor game. I’d argue as an experience, people need to go through this. Not on the same scale nearly as Journey, but I think each person will get what they need from this.

    PS: Love the line about Minecraft with no tools, it is just so fitting 🙂 personal criticisms asides, seriously good video game review

    • Keith Dunn

      Why thank you! And I begrudge you nothing in your enjoyment of it. Aren’t WE just civilized, though! LOL

    • John Davidson

      Yea, I really enjoyed this. I did feel submersed in the world, walking into the rain, peeking above the clouds on top of a mountain. I thought it all looked really cool in that 8-bit style. It was a nice break from GTAV.

      Experience vs game is an interesting discussion.

      I did also enjoy reading the review!

    • IceSamurai Dono

      Ok just “beat it” and thought it was fun. I was unclear about the “closing of eyes” part but it seems that was the end. I had to check and see if i was crazy, thanks for your post.

  • Derek / Beaver6622

    “Proteus is what you’d buy if you had finished the internet.” So that’s a No….? Brilliant Review, I can feel the awful disappointment in your words as if I was playing the game minus the agony of playing it.

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  • IceSamurai Dono

    Ahh man this game was on my radar. As all ways iv only read the Conclusions & letter head. I hope i enjoyed this game more than you have. Seems like others in the comments disagree which is good (i want the game to be good). After playing Entwined and learning not all artsy games are like Journey in scope. My expectations are kinda checked and i want to check this out. ITS FREE ON PLUS SO WHY NOT.