23 Oct 2011

Rockin' Stroll: Proteus EP

"I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
And felt compelled to frag them all;"

The immortal words of Wiliam Wordsworth there, quoted from an early revision of his landmark poem, Daffodils (working title, UDM1), which provides a fascinating insight into the mind and desires of this great man. It was altered before final publication, of course, in a decision that many felt was telling of his disillusionment at the evolution of deathmatch gaming and the changing attitudes within the surrounding community. So, in his twilight years, he took to filling his mind with aspects of virtuality that didn't involve shooting things in the face. Like pretty flowers.

For this reason, Wordsworth would have bloody loved Proteus. The work of Twisted Tree Games (designed by Ed Key, soundtracked by David Kanaga), it is a game of "pure exploration and discovery" as noted on their website. This is absolutely the most effective way of describing it.

Proteus features no weaponry, no hostile creatures; the intention is for the player to wander and watch and listen. When you arrive in this world, your eyelids will gently part and you are encouraged by the absence of any instruction whatsoever to make your way to the shore of a distant land. It's boldly ambiguous.

It's also delightfully retro, but doesn't play the token nostalgia card in the same way that many indie developments do. It really looks the part. The water glistens invitingly and the clouds which cover the top of the highest mountain billow and swell as they threaten to engulf you. It looks as if it was thrown out of the early nineties, but there is something hidden behind its pixellated make-up that speaks of reality.

This is where the desire to explore comes from; the awareness that there is more to this experience than can be assumed from its simplistic initial appearance.

Primarily it's a musical experience with a soundtrack that reacts to your movements. There are no goals to reach, no puzzles to solve, but as you walk you'll hear the alterations in your physical environment, where ambient rhythms mix with the flora and fauna of the world. It's subtly compelling in the way it manages to maintain the thrill of discovery without any kind of virtual back-patting.

Once the initial version of Proteus is released it's going to be hard to pinpoint an audience to recommend it to because it simply doesn't fall into any standard category. Simply saying “if you like having a bit of a stroll then you’ll love this" probably doesn't cut it. Regardless, I think Proteus will be a game that a good deal of people will find instantly refreshing and the lucky ones will completely lose themselves to.

The Proteus EP is planned for release before the end of the year, with a more expansive 'LP' version to follow at some point thereafter. The price has not yet been confirmed. For updates check the website, here.

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