It’s been a while since I played through a game on the Xbox One. In fact the last time was early this year when we all played through Halo: The Master Chief Collection. And while the games on that collection were good on their own, that specific disc of them was found fairly lacking. And since then, the system has pretty much served me for Youtube, to chat with my brothers who use the system religiously, and as a BluRay player. I have not found myself playing it since just yet.
And then came Extra Life. Originally I had no intention of playing this game on the big day, as we were having guests over and I wanted as much social gaming as possible. But for whatever reason while I had chosen to test the capability of my main media machine’s streaming with this game. Now before anyone argues, yes, I know the Xbox One can do it on it’s own, but that is not the only console I have or expected to play with. It was just the one I had on at the time. And while playing around with it, it struck me… this was a game I was going to play through. And when everyone started to pass out at around 22 hours, I decided to continue my journey. I do not regret that choice, or the choice of finishing my marathon with this gorgeous title.
Story: First Pneuma was born and all existence began. One second, nothing occurs or exists, and the next he was aware, can move, and can think. Naturally as the only thing in existence, he assumes he is God and orders the naturally first command: “Let there be light!”
And just like that, his path opens up as he begins to explore his new universe. And yet, things are not right. There are things in this universe he does not understand even as it bends to his will (if with a little effort from time to time). How can a god not understand their own universe? What is going on?
From this rather unique beginning you will travel with Pneuma as he slowly gathers information from the world around him and slowly draws conclusions about himself in the world and realizes the truth about the exactly what is going on. To give away the conclusion or even the path is to do the audience for this game a serious disservice, as a large portion of what makes this game worth playing comes from taking this journey with Pneuma. But suffice it to say it is deep, it is thoughtful along the way, and a surprisingly well written game.
Graphics: In just about every way I can talk about the look of this game, it is gorgeous. From the first scene where you watch the hand-rails float to the sides of the first stairs you climb to the last hallways, everything looks amazing.
For the most part, you will spend your time in marble rooms adorned with gold, paintings, mirrors, and other artifacts like ancient times might use to display their wealth. Pneuma himself describes it early on as a properly rich temple to his status as God. And when you are not in such an environment, they are generally outdoors of the same style, often complete with gardens.
And while the variety offered this way is relatively limited, I will put that more on the length of the game then anything else. For the amount of time you will spend here, the game never keeps the same exact look for too long. Rather it lingers long enough for you to relax and enjoy looking around before moving on to the next thing. Overall this is a very good looking package.
Sound: I’m going to say it right now, the music in this game is not going to be something you will ever write home about. It’s basically there to serve as a backdrop without really being noticed… the definition of existing to avoid silence. And sadly that’s doesn’t speak well for a lot of the sound effects either. Outside of some stone/marble grinding when some objects are moved, these too are virtually non-existent.
Rather the audio charm of this game is pretty much exclusively with Pneuma’s narration and self-determined explanations of everything that happens. From his ecstatic revelation that he exists and can move to his explanations to himself about everything he finds, he is a pure joy to listen to, making small immediate rewards for figuring out each puzzle. Just don’t be too distracted from the big picture or you might miss what really makes this game something a little bit unique from the crowd.
Gameplay: This game’s style will be fairly familiar to anyone who has played at least one of the Portal. You will play from a first person perspective as you explore the world literally being made around you and listening to Pneuma react as the game moves forward. During this time, the game will challenge you with puzzles you need to resolve before progressing, and like Portal, there is a general theme to these. In this game, however, it’s perception.
Almost everything you deal with in this game does not react to using it or bringing an item to activate it, but to how you look at it. Early on you will find electronic eyes everywhere and when you look at them, they cause something. This effect can vary from simply opening a door while you stare to your movement while looking at it directly manipulating how something else moves around and more. And that’s before you stop needing them. The game is actually very creative in how it uses this mechanic, and it will stand out from many puzzle games for it.
However, I do have to note that this game is both very short and very linear. Once you finish it you will probably have little to no reason to go back. Enjoy and absorb everything you can the first time.
Bugs: This game ran very well and considering the beauty and affinity for shiny and actually reflective surfaces, looks amazing. But it did have a few small issues once in a while. Basically, loading times can be obnoxiously long from time to time, and occasionally you do notice a frame-rate issue. Nothing that will even come close to hurting the game once it’s going, but things that should be noted none the less.
Overall: Pneuma: Breath of Life is a very unique title to be sure. It’s fairly obvious where it’s inspirations come from, but at the same time, the way it goes about it is actually different enough to consider it far from just a Portal clone. Rather, it is a very good example of how to follow in their footsteps doing your own thing. Like Portal, the developers built an entire game and world around a single mechanic, but due to how different that mechanic is, the game stands on it’s own and very well.
If you are looking for a unique puzzle game that will entertain you for a day or two, I can’t think of a better place to go, well, assuming you already played through the Portal games anyway. You will find more to love here, complete with it’s own take on the FPS puzzle gameplay that series made famous.
8/10Source: Xbox LIVE