Proteus is a island that is definitely worth visiting
I’m not sure if it is possible to play Proteus in a more perfect setting than where I was when I played the game for the first time to “completion”. I was on a skiing holiday on the snowy slopes of Mt. Niseko in Hokkaido, Japan. So much snow had been dumped from the clouds that most of the ski lifts were closed for the day, so to entertain myself I put on my headphones and launched Proteus; not really knowing what to expect.
Honestly, the less you know about this game before you play it the better. If you enjoy experimental “art games” and can afford to take a $10 risk then take a look at this trailer for the game and stop reading – if you want to learn a bit more about what exactly Proteus is and what I think about it then continue to read down the page.
In Proteus you are hovering over the sea just off the coast of strange island, if you want you can choose to just float endlessly in the opposite direction of the island towards the never-ending horizon. Or you can move towards the mysterious landmass and investigate the beat-making flora and fauna of the island. There isn’t any clear cut objectives or challenges to be found in Proteus, what drew me was the fantastic combination of the impressionist, retro-infused visuals and the animals, trees and stones that react with their own sounds as you walk by them. The overall effect is emotionally uplifting (the same way parts of Journey made me feel), the game put me into a semi meditative state were I was completely immersed in the experience.
While walking across this island you may encounter frogs that can leap over hills that emit a high pitched, escalating tune as they fly through the air. Owls that just silently observe you from the trees and fly away when you get to close and mystical rocks that produce a deep bassy ‘hum’ when you walk past them. The trees and small ground shrubs are a constant source of interesting synth sounds. The game does a great job of giving the player the freedom to interact with anything on the island while making all of the separate sounds sound good in harmony. Each time you start the game it creates a new island, and while there definitely some recognisable elements from island to island, they are different enough to warrant exploring again.
Visually the game shares the blocky aesthetic of Minecraft but having blocks that are only a single colour. What really makes Proteus stand out is the fantastic colour palette, the orange sunsets, dark nights and snowy winters all look great. The look and inhabitants of the island do change once the player steps into the star filled, magical season switcher. The four seasons changes aspects of the landscape dramatically and gives you a reason to explore the island yet again.
Proteus is only an aimlessness experience if you lack curiosity, the game slowly reveals the seasonal theme as you explore. Despite its simple aesthetics the game establishes a stronger mood and sense of place than games with a budget a thousand times bigger. If you enjoyed Dear Esther or Journey, Proteus should be right up your alley.