Astounding Speed [Proteus]
Proteus opens with just enough island visible to attract you to the safety of its beach and the clucking fowl greeting party. I expected the movement to feel like Minecraft, but that was the first of many places Proteus caught me off guard. You move deliberately, almost like you’ll never move slower or faster than the game allows at that moment in its 40 minutes (think Passage). Everything is new. Soon, the feeling of floating accompanies your movement. Sound seems to ebb from your surroundings: falling leaves, flowers dancing in a silent wind. Maybe the music is the wind.
I thought of the squirrel I’d chased up a tree as I chase an elusive frog into a grove containing the largest tree on my island. It’s presence is powerful, like the entire island was its roots and the body of water surrounding it all collected from the sky to its canopy and beyond. Clouds rolled in – one shaped like a dragon – and delivered rain. Then the clouds were gone. Night had fallen and lights or stars or bugs or white dots struck across the entire pastel panorama. They swept me into another clearing overlooked by menacing silhouettes of totems on a hill. I spun around trying to take all of the lights in, time whipped by and I felt my consciousness lift, my stomach twirling slightly. It was magic.
The blossoms that once fell seductively to the luscious grass below now drop without pretense. The entire ground is painted with patches of dead leaves. Sparsely placed pillars dotting the landscape never felt more like tombstones. The flora and fauna no longer played about. Everything felt barren and impregnable. The island would not recover. The menacing totems produced a plump ghost who disappeared as it ran from the circle of idols. The decrepit towers dotting the landscape around the now lame tree even seemed less inviting. The frog was willing to glow for me as I chased it to the end of another day, but the island’s trajectory was set.
My stomach and head work together with Proteus to make me nauseous. The island is dying, and I feel like I may as well be, too. I keep my deliberate pace, from tree to hollow tree. There aren’t any owls or crabs or ghosts to keep me company. The snow quiets the sound, simplifies it. The hills go on too long, and I feel incapable. But everything changed the whole time, whether I was paying attention or not. I visited the great tree and said goodbye to its corpse. Everything was a grave on a hill staring at a sunset. I kept going until the snow and its clouds covered the ground. Blindly I struck out toward the totems, on and on through white. I turned around and confirmed my suspicions: I’d left the ground. I was floating while the totems were consumed by clouds. The stars were all that was left and they began to fall at me with astounding speed. I looked a little longer. Then my eyes closed.