Proteus review for PS Vita

Platform: PlayStation Vita
Also On: PS3, PC
Publisher: Curve Studios
Developer: Twisted Tree
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

I’ve played Proteus for a couple of hours now, on both PS3 and Vita, and after all that time, I feel confident in making exactly one observation about it: if you’re one of those people who hated Journey for being “not a game”, you’re really going to loathe Proteus. Though, come to think of it, I guess the opposite is also true. If you loved Journey — or, even better, if you loved the atmosphere but still thought it had too many aspects of a traditional game — then Proteus might just be the perfect game for you.

See, as far as I can tell, the whole point of the game is to walk around an island. Occasionally, you’ll come across frogs, rabbits, owls, and other animals, all of which run from you as soon as you come close to them. If the mood strikes you, you can sit down. You can also wander off the island into the ocean, but I wouldn’t recommend that — you can walk for days and days in the game’s time and never come across anything new.

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And that’s pretty much it. I mean, judging from the cryptic trophy list, there’s a little more to the game, but even after reading a guide, I still felt a little lost.

I suspect, though, that to approach Proteus like you would any other game is to miss the point of it. As its description on the PSN storefront says, it’s all about immersing yourself in the the game’s world and exploring what it has to offer. And you know what? Once I let go notions of doing anything, the whole experience became a lot more fun. I was able to appreciate the game’s amazing look — creators Ed Key and David Kanaga have taken 8-bit graphics that look like they could be straight from an Atari 2600 game, and turned them into something lush and vibrant. There’s something almost magical about standing beneath a blocky tree, looking up, and watching little block leaves falling all around you — to say nothing of being able to sit down, and watch the sun set or the weather change around you.

The score is similarly fantastic. The music, minimal though it is, does a great job of lulling you into the game’s rhythms, while also making you notice every little sound cue that notifies you some creature or other point of interest is nearby. In fact, you can also use those cues to create a soundtrack of your own, in a way — I had a lot of fun chasing chickens around the island, turning their weird little clucking into a constant stream of noise. It was…something.

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Which, really, is a good way to describe the entire game. It’s, for lack of a better descriptor, “something”. Whether that means something good or something terrible will depend entirely on your own feelings about the games as art debate, and about where you stand on playing games that strive to be art. I won’t even pretend to have any deep thoughts on that subject, but I can definitely say that if you want something unique on your Vita or your PS3, they don’t make things much more unique than Proteus.

Grade: A-