Developer: Deco Digital, Bevel Studios
Platform Reviewed: Xbox ONE
Release date: 27/02/2015
At some point in our lives we may find ourselves pondering the meaning of life, the existence of the world and our place in it. Pneuma: Breath of Life is a first person puzzle game that explores these thoughts and ideas as if we were a God and how that would change our perceptions and beliefs. Playing as a character who believes himself to be a God we listen to his inner monologue as he progresses through his world, questioning his being and how that relates to the world which surrounds him.
Progression through the story is achieved by solving a series of puzzles built entirely around the principle of perception. Relying solely on the power of sight, objects can be moved or manipulated simply be looking at them. Look at a torch and it will light, look at it again the flame will extinguish. If you want the bridge to move, simply look at the correct spot and move your head, then watch as these apparently vast, immovable objects seem to bend and twist to your will. Physical interaction is kept to a minimum, there are some mechanisms which require a button push to operate, but most of the time you be relying on what you see in order to manipulate your surroundings. There are no convoluted controls to master or overly complex mechanics to learn. You are encouraged to look closely at every detail whilst searching for clues which will help you proceed.
Built using the Unreal Engine 4 the world looks absolutely stunning. The Romanesque architecture is both grandiose and subtle in equal measure. Beautifully carved stone structures all wonderfully illuminated by the stunning lighting effects makes exploring each location an absolute pleasure. The mesmerising soundtrack has an almost hypnotic effect and you may find yourself being thoroughly drawn into the landscape. When the dark clouds hide the warmth of the sun and the rain beats relentlessly at your window, the world of Pneuma is a delightful place to escape to.
Sadly this idyllic setting is spoiled by a few nasty blots upon the landscape. Game length will vary, it all depends how quickly you can solve the puzzles, for me it took less than three hours to complete and I am by no means an expert when it comes to this style of game. There is no real need to play through this more than once so, value for money is a consideration.
The all-important monologue is voiced by someone who sounds a little like an excited YouTube’r, something I found particularly irritating. His slightly comical attitude is a mistake, in my opinion, the person who narrated the trailer would have been perfect, his pace and tone would match the dialogue perfectly. Lastly, due to nature of interaction using a controller can be an awkward and slightly clumsy affair. The developers have stated the PC version will support the Oculus Rift and I can’t escape the feeling that this would be the ideal way to experience this game.
Be that as it may, there are very few titles, especially on a console, that offer this type of experience. If, after a long day, you feel a little tired and a little sore from the beating the world has dished out and you just want to escape to a warm and comfortable place; to slow the rush of modern life and to be left alone to ponder as you stroll along. Pneuma: Breath of Life will welcome you with open arms, but be warned, it won’t last long enough.