In this “game” you explore a pixelated 2D-world within a 3D space. You explore the world in three dimensions, however everything is heavily pixelated and 2-dimensional. You move through this space in first-person with little-to-no real interaction in the traditional sense. You can sit by holding down the X-button. The circle-button also allows you to close your eyes. When you do close your eyes all sound drifts away and if you hold them closed for long enough, you fall asleep (?) and return to the main menu.
In Proteus you start out in the sea, close enough to an island which you (can) swim to. You walk amongst beautifully simple trees and flowers and the occasional creature which makes quirky little sounds as you approach or as it runs away. As mentioned before, the island manifests itself in low-detailed pixels. The graphics are crude one could say, and yet extremely pleasing to the eye. Indeed, you can take screen shots or “postcards” within the game by pressing R1. Each postcard serves not only as something nice to look at, but also as a save point for you to continue from. This game is just as pleasing to the ears as well. Most actions result in melodious tones. Your own walking takes on a musical quality, as does the hopping and chirping of creatures you encounter throughout the island.
There doesn’t appear to be an objective in Proteus. Your meant to explore the island and discover its secrets. This game is driven very much by that child-like curiosity and wonder for the world around us. What follows is an excerpt from my time on the island.
12:40 I’m in the middle of a sea close to the shore of an island. Short white horizontal lines blink across the turquoise water, representing the glistening waves of the sea.
12:42 I am walking through bright-green grass, petals are falling from what I assume are cherry blossoms and various other trees.
12:48 I’ve stumbled upon a path and climbed a hill. Atop its peak sit several shadowy figures which almost resemble animals. They do not move however. What are these shadows which stand upright? Former visitors to the island? Deities who watch over this lonely, beautiful island? There is no sound up here, except for whispers of the wind.
12:49 Looking out across a valley, a passing cloud slowly drifts by below me sprinkling water on trees and animals.
12:50 As I descend this hill into said valley, there is strange music playing; it is tranquil and intertwined with the occasional chirp of birds. There is also a slight distortion however, like a radio trying to pick up long-lost signal.
12:55 As sun sets on this strange island between worlds, I’m taken in again by it’s beauty. I stop and take a few more “pictures” of the sunset on the horizon.
12:57 I find another shadow/statue below a rather large tree. In the middle of the clearing of the large tree is a small green “frog”. It leads me onwards, one musical hop at a time.
01:01 Night has fallen. I lost track of the frog when it jumped off a cliff and into the sea. A cloud rolls in from under the moon and each raindrop is a note in a symphony of musical tones. I see a procession of glowing lights in the distance, like fireflies.
01:03 I have followed the fireflies. They suddenly become excited by my presence and move faster and faster eventually spiraling and forming a circle upon a smell crest. I walk into the circle of fireflies and night turns into day, day into night, time passes, but I know not in which direction, two shooting stars pass overhead… Everything is white, and then it’s morning. The land seems different. Am I on the same island, or has the season simply changed?
01:05 The music has taken on an almost clock-like melody. I distinctly hear the tick-tock of time in unison with chimes and other bells.
01:11 I am chasing a white sparkling “rabbit” now. I chase it up a small mountain/large hill. Everything is a matter of perspective here. Upon chasing it downhill I discover what appears to be a graveyard. Brown tombstones dot the land like neatly folded Church-basement chairs standing upright. Who or what lies in these graves? There are no markings on the graves, and the usual morbid-chill usually associated with a graveyard is distinctly absent. The graveyard sits here as naturally as the trees do. There is no sadness, to pass away is expected, and not feared.
01:16 I chase a white rabbit up the large hill again. It becomes night and I close my eyes. I close my eyes long enough to wake up and leave the island…
To say the least, this game is an experience in and of itself. There doesn’t seem to be a way to “beat” it, and there doesn’t appear to be any other goal than exploration itself. I read up on Proteus via Wikipedia and found out much more about it. While researching the game was informative, I feel that it also takes away from this (what has been called) anti-game. The island is magic, and to ruin that with detail-delving would go against the very nature of what developers Ed Key and David Kanaga intended. This is a game to lose yourself in and have fun exploring and testing things out. The island is a playground. Follow the sparkling white sprite rabbit and let Proteus take you where it may.