I played Proteus for the first time a couple months ago. I was captivated by its wonder: the pixelated art style, a true feeling of freedom, the stress relief that the game offered me…for about ten minutes. I left it alone and didn’t open up Steam for quite awhile after.
I opened it back up today. I was reading quite a bit about “walking simulators” and the debate of whether these things listed on the Steam store as games were truly games. In fact, the entire game can be controlled with just a mouse, with forward and backward movement tied to left and right mouse clicks.
Proteus starts you in a procedurally generated world, the only constantly being dropped in the ocean close to a beach. It starts with your eyes opening, and ends when you will it: with your eyes closing. Proteus, the word, comes from the classical mythological sea god, Proteus. Highly regarded for his ability to assume different forms.
The soundtrack is created around you, with the environment playing sound effects as you approach certain things. Bunnies, squirrels, owls and a lot of other wildlife chirp and beep when you approach them. Bees spawn heavy buzzing sounds, when gathering near a mass of them, your speed increases as well as their sound to indicate they are hostile towards you.
Proteus main event seems to be to when this happens:
When small spheres of white light form a circle, turning time and drawing you in as you get closer. Time starts passing by rapidly, and then you are dropped onto a new island, with new creatures, terrain, and sounds.
Proteus came under heavy criticism for not having a goal, for lacking interaction: but isn’t that the point?
Playing Proteus with no aim in mind, I found myself exploring for 30 minutes with glee. Following rabbits as they hop around the world, trying to narrow down the bitcrushed “hoot” of an owl, and following the many graves around the island as they emote pizzicato chords when passing by them.
The sounds of Proteus is what comforts me the most. Just listen for a bit:
You begin the game with nothing, just the sounds of waves crashing on the island shore. It is evident that the island’s creatures and flora are creating the calming sounds. Trees create a gliding see saw sound, a broken catedral plays what sounds like a low resolution organ. Falling leaves continuously fall on the ground and stay there, whilst a cello is strummed throughout. Climbing to mountain peaks forces the music to stop, giving you a chance to breathe.
Proteus is a reminder to take a break. And when you want to return to the sea where the wonder began all began the music ceases. Tombstones are strewn all across the island, though a feeling of dread is not encapsulated. A feeling of peace, just as a still pond surrounded by fallen leaves of autumnal colors would create.