- Developers: Ed Key and David Kanaga
- Platforms: Downloadable beta, available on Steam soon
- Release Date: Available now
- Price: £4.60
Proteus has been doing the indie and magazine circuit for more than a year now, but it somehow stayed off my radar. Described as a "musical exploration" game, Proteus has you wander a colourful, pixelated landscape that visually and aurally reacts to your presence.
Take the field I found myself in, for instance. After booting up Proteus without knowing anything about it, and coming across no objective markers or guide arrows, I thought for a while that I might be doing something wrong. But then a gust of wind blew overhead, carrying with it a flock of loose, fluttering blossom petals, and I started following.
It was a long and abstract meander: Each time I turned my head, or strolled towards a tree, the land of Proteus would change shape and colour, and a new bar of ambient music would start playing. It was like walking on a giant, trippy, department store keyboard; every step to the left and right made a different sound.
Music meets game - we've been here before. Portal 2 played with this idea, when it clued players in to puzzle solutions by chiming different beats and rhythms whenever they wandered near something important. Flower, too where brushing your collection of petals against the ground elicited different coos from the game's soundtrack.
But in Proteus, the idea is much more fleshed out. The entire game is an interactive soundboard, remixed by your movement. Bright, spacey and very relaxing, Proteus helped block out the thundering, Eurogamer dubstep that was starting to give me a headache.
And eventually, the trail of petals led me to a huge open meadow. Here, like a scene from Koyaanisqatsi, the sun went down and the moon came up. All the trees and grass changed colours, Proteus' soundtrack shuffled to a faster mix of chillwave and I found myself stood in the middle of a music video.
It was a completely new experience, and one that some people might struggle to call a game; like thechineseroom's Dear Esther, Proteus is all about doing nothing: Strolling along, breathing in the sights and sounds. Developers Ed Key and David Kanaga might have created a new genre - the wandering sim.
Proteus is available now at the game's official website, with plans to distribute the game via Steam. There's also a neat feature that lets you create your own postcard of the game's colourful, 8-bit landscape, by hitting F9 while you play. You can share them at Visit Proteus.
It's not a game in the same sense as the other stuff at Eurogamer - in fact, Proteus is very different from anything else in the indie booth - but you can't help but be seduced and enthralled by its gorgeous vistas and entrancing music.
"Some people will just take a look at Proteus" explains Ed Key to Rock, Paper, Shotgun "and some will sit down and play for 15 minutes. That's a pretty long time in an exhibition context."