Proteus is an Environmental Narrative Game developed by Twisted Tree and released on January 30, 2013 for PC, PS3, and PS Vita. Primarily intended as an art study, it invites players to explore an unnamed island and marvel in its pixellated visuals and unique soundscapes. Beyond basic movement, there is no interactivity whatsoever and only the reactions of various wildlife implies that the player has any real physical presence in the game world, leading some to question its status as a video game.
Among the unique features of Proteus is the island itself; it is randomly generated from scratch each time the game is played, much like Minecraft, so that you will never visit the same island twice. All sounds are generated naturally by objects in the game - some emanate constantly from the object, others are triggered by actions such as leaves hitting the ground or pigeons running - and consist entirely of old-fashioned synthesizer riffs that mesh with the similarly quaint visuals to create an engrossing atmosphere. No goals are set for the player and the game only ends when it is quit.
There are no buildings or other artificial structures, just nature and you. A day-night cycle and a randomized weather system ensure that the scenery never stays static, and there is even some spectacle to be had in the form of meteor showers. Animals are present, but not in great numbers and exist purely to complete the feeling of exploring a living, breathing island.
Not to be confused with the 1995 horror film of the same name, nor Prodeus.
Proteus provides examples of:
- The Aloner: There is no one else on the island, and all of the wildlife will run from you.
- Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: All of the animals are a single color, and it rarely resembles their real-world appearance. It's not uncommon to see a blue gopher in your travels.
- Ambiguously Human: Since you never see any part of yourself, you could be almost anything.
- Bookends: When you enter into a new world, there's a first person view of your character's eyes opening. At the end of the game, when you leave, your character's eyes close.
- Cheat Code: Press Ctrl+Z+0 to turn on debug mode.
- Deserted Island: Hope you don't crave companionship, because there's nobody else around.
- Dreaming of a White Christmas: Winter's arrival is signaled by the falling of snow, which creates new music and a change of landscape.
- Ending by Ascending: If you play all the way to the winter night, the game ends with you slowly floating up into the sky. The music track that plays during this part is even called "Ascension."
- Escapism: One of the biggest draws. While the real world may turn dreary and ugly, Proteus is always oh-so-beautiful.
- Eternal Equinox: Day and night work on a fixed cycle, with each lasting about five minutes.
- Ghibli Hills: One of the only constants in the world-generation software. Lots of big, green climbable hills everywhere, which makes for a great place to watch the sunset.
- Green Hill Zone: The island is always like this, most strikingly when it's sunny (which is how the it starts out every time you play).
- The Lost Woods: Whatever parts of the island aren't Green Hill Zone will be this instead.
- Minimalism: Proteus is about as basic as a first-person adventure can be. You cannot run, jump, or directly interact with anything. There are no mechanisms to activate, no NPCs to talk to, and not even any goals to accomplish. All you do here is look and listen. Whether this makes the game serene and relaxing or incredibly boring is a major point of contention.
- Robinsonade: Starting the game spawns you in an ocean just off the shore of the island, and the only thing to do is explore that island.
- Scenery Porn: Proteus's bread and butter, and pretty much the whole point of the game. Everything is lushly colored and looks beautiful at any distance, and the lighting and weather can produce some breathtaking views. And since the island is different each time you play, you'll always have new vistas to ogle.
- Seasonal Baggage: All four seasons are on full display here, and each carries a unique mood and musical theme.
- Space Compression: Lovely as it is, the island isn't very big. You can explore the entire thing in only an hour if you don't stop to take in the scenery.
- Water Is Blue: The ocean is a neutral blue, and opaque.
- Wide Open Sand Box: Explore all you want, it's what the island is there for.
- Wintry Auroral Sky: During the night in winter, the aurora lights up the sky.
- The World Is Just Awesome: All of nature plays music for you, and there is no such thing as an ugly day.