Review - Proteus


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  • Proteus
  • Proteus
  • Proteus
  • Proteus

Indie visual and aural delight
Twisted Tree
Ed Key and David Kanaga
Release Date:
Age Rating:
As musical exploration game finally reaches version 1.0 and released on Steam, we take a look at this unusual project.

Originally intended as a more familiar exploration game with mild RPG elements, Proteus changed tack considerably when musician David Kanaga (find him on twitter)came on board. Together with developer Ed Key (follow on Twitter), he created a constantly evolving, living soundtrack which responds to your every movement within the game.

On paper, Proteus is all about walking. After the simple main menu (which has gained some slickness since the beta) you’ll find yourself in the water, amid a haze of cloud. Dimly discerning a shoreline, you’ll move towards it, gain land and walk. The mechanics couldn’t be simpler, which is what makes the experience all the more enjoyable.

Each step you take in the world of Proteus causes a ripple effect which subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, modifies the soundscape around you. A passing tree ads an organic modulation, flowers additional notes and interacting with animals (which you’ll find many more of in the 1.0 release) will see their movements accompanied by its own track.

Beyond this, the score also changes depending on the time of day and even the season. I personally preferred night to day for the stripped back sound, climbing a peak can leave you alone with a chill wind through your ears and the stars above. Winter was also stunning, individual snowflakes adding their own brief tinkle to the mix.

The moon's path is traced in stars
The moon's path is traced in starsEnlarge Enlarge

Adding to the audio splendour are the unique visuals of the game. A 3D world is conjured out of flat sprites to build up an unusually vibrant world out of abstract shapes. Trees are blobs of colour on other blobs of colour, the infrequent ruined structures the only straight lines in the organic miasma. Creatures are a little more defined but still rely on your mind to fill in the gaps for frog-like and chicken-like things.

The day night cycle is another wonderful addition, as you watch the piercing sun arch across the land towards another spectacular sunset and the moon’s path is traced by a curved line of stars. Beautiful slashes of shooting stars grace the most recent build, leading the player to continue their walk or simply take a seat (with the space bar) and drink in the view.

Level progression, such as it is, happens at the whim of the player. Each night, a swirl of stars makes landfall at an isolated circle of stones. Entering the area causes time to accelerate, whipping through day and night in a blur of colour and monochrome. Stepping onto a nearby spot causes the level to fade away, replaced by an all new season, new creatures and new variations to the song.

Step into the circle or just drink in the time lapse view
Step into the circle or just drink in the time lapse viewEnlarge Enlarge

In addition, pressing F9 at any time will grab a screenshot which can be accessed from the main menu. But rather than just creating a handy PNG for purposes like game reviewing (which it does admirably), you can also click on any screengrab to be taken to that exact moment in your playthrough. These ‘postcards’ literally allow you to relive the memory which made you want to take the picture in the first place, making them more profound than mere save games and nothing short of genius.

It’s unlikely that it will take you more than an hour to experience the guts of what Proteus has to offer - from its watery beginning to semi-spiritual end - but the journey is so unique, beautiful and memorable that it would be impossible not to recommend. It represents the best of what indie games can give to players, something altogether more thoughtful and alternative than the commercially led norm.

Proteus is available right now from Steam and the official site for $10.

8 Stars: Recommended
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