Proteus (Review)

Proteus is an interactive.. um.. let’s see.. adven.. no.. um..

Well you um.. do um.. stuff.. and uh.. hmmmmmm.. okay, starting over..

Proteus is interactive.

Well, no, that’s not really right either. Christ, this is a hard game to review.

There’s um..

Well, the game boots up. I can confirm this. It does actually load. And there’s a title screen, though I was actually surprised by that given how the rest of the game plays out. And then there’s an island, and you can walk around it. And there’s night-and-day cycles and the seasons change, which makes the colors of the world change.

And that’s pretty much it.

A $13.99 screen saver where you can move the camera. That's what this is.

A $13.99 screensaver for your PS3 or Vita where you can move the camera. That’s what this is.

Art games that have no point or motive remind me of children playing guns, where inevitably one of the kids will pull out his imaginary deflect-all shield. Having the art label is like a developer or the game’s fans saying “DEFLECT ALL!” to anyone who might have something critical to say. Though I think in the case of Proteus, they got around this by not having any real content at all to actually comment on. It’s literally a world that you walk around in and look at stuff. Not even pretty stuff. Fans of pixel-art are gaga over it. I found the environment to be fairly bland. Art is always in the eye of the beholder of course, though I’m not willing to get an eye transplant to appreciate Proteus. I really found it to be awful.

You don’t even interact with the environment. You just wander through it. I guess you’re supposed to just take in the visuals and (admittedly) pleasant music. I can do that in other games, that have better visuals or a more enchanting setting. And sometimes they even have stuff do in them. There’s nothing really to do here. Just walk and look. Proteus is a walking simulator. I mean, really, that’s what it is. As much as I bust Nintendo’s balls, at least their walking simulator encouraged players to, you know, get up and walk around. I can’t believe this was one of the free games with PlayStation Plus. I have been a subscriber to the service since 2010 and I have never felt like I deserved better for my $50 a year. I do with Proteus.

What irks me about games like this is how, if anyone dares say they don’t get it, or think it’s boring, or even if they unflinchingly declare that it’s pretentious tripe, that makes them an enemy of gaming. As if you can’t be “indie” if you can’t enjoy something that’s completely abstract, without any goals or motivations or reasons to exist. “This game is art. If you don’t like it, you’re saying you hate the concept of any game as an artistic expression.” This came as a shocking revelation to me. I have Journey pegged as the greatest indie of all time, and the last time I checked, it had a bit of fart-sniffing art-house pretension to it as well. And here I thought ALL games were a form of art. Some people suggested that perhaps the label of “game” was inappropriate for this, and that “interactive art exhibit” would be more suitable. Fine. Call it whatever you want. Just don’t tell people that they either like something or they’re bad for gaming, or not indie. That’s just elitism. I’m genuinely happy for those that played Proteus and were moved by it. Believe it or not, I envy those that did. Because I didn’t get it. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t even see what there was TO get. As my reader Sulyspa said, “yeah, I didn’t get it, but did you even attempt to send it to me?”

Proteus 2

I rank arthouse gamers defense of every art game with “it’s art!” just a step below the catch-all answer to every question creationists get with “God did it!” on the “arguments used by lazy people” checklist.

I’ve played a lot of art-labeled stuff that feels more like an unfinished tech demo than a complete experience, but Proteus takes the cake. It’s as if someone made the world for a game, then decided that adding a plot, characters, objectives, items, or overarching point was too much work. So, instead of bothering with that stuff, they just released the world as-is and said “we’ll say it’s art. If anyone says it sucks, artsy-types will say they don’t get it.” Guess what? They win. I don’t get it. Like testicular cancer, I’ll never get it.

Proteus logoProteus was developed by Curve Studios
Point of Sale: PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Steam

I got this free with PlayStation Plus, and I feel like it wasn’t even worth the bandwidth to download it. Normal price is $9.99 on Steam or $13.99 on PlayStation devices. Or you could, you know, light that money on fire. At least that will create warmth.

About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

13 Responses to Proteus (Review)

  1. AxelMill98 says:

    Yeah, I got bored after 5/6 minutes. Never played it again afterwards.

  2. I wasn’t aware that Proteus even self-labels as “art”, so your entire review is a strawman.

  3. My son played this for a couple hours, at least, and things do happen depending on where you go it looks like.

  4. My five year old creates art all the time. It usually ends up in the recycling. I haven’t played this, and am not trying to comment on if it’s good or not, but there is such a thing as BAD art. You can call something art. That doesn’t make it good art.

  5. Kez Keenan says:

    Meh, personally I was more offended by the female characters in Dragon’s Crown and the fact they had the nerve to ‘give’ me Crysis 3 than I was by Proteus.

    Out of the 3 (in what I think was an admittedly terrible month) I enjoyed Proteus the most. It was chill, I still go through and randomly get a trophy every once in awhile.

    Now saying that there is no way I would have ever spent 10-15 dollars on this. If it was part of the 99 cent sale I would of picked it up but if I had somehow paid full price for this I’d be spewing my powerful internet rage about this ‘game’ for years.

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  8. Nate Schmold says:

    I remember there being something to actually do in this, but you sort of have to be patient and it subtly appears to you… this might be more of a spoiler than anything, but yeah there is actually a strange kind of progression that takes place subtly… maybe i was just stoned tho.

  9. Couldn’t agree with you more! I was genuinely stunned by the amount of positive reviews that Proteus received at a title where the sole objective was to do nothing. We had a former writer on our site rave about it but after he left I felt an uncontrolable urge to rewrite the review myself instead.

    Talking to one of my other writers, I couldn’t believe that he even gained a trophy from this by just *sitting* on top of a mountain and waiting until he was awarded the trophy. I mean, what “game” rewards players for sitting on their backsides and doing nothing whatsoever. If it’s meant to be art then fine, it should be labelled as such by the developers but offering trophies, marketing it as a game and charging the same price as a typical indie game… now that’s insulting to our intelligence.

    I’m 100% with you on this one though – it seems as if anyone who dares to speak out against Proteus in the media (professional or amateur) is looked down upon with disdain and we’re accused of just “not getting it”. Just a pity that there just isn’t any substance to Proteus for us to actually “get” in the first place.

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