I’m not going to lie; I only happened across Pneuma: Breath of Life because I was worried I wouldn’t finish a game this week and needed a quick and easy game to complete. Checking through game times on HowLongToBeat.com whilst also using my xbox One, I finally happened across Pneuma, and being as I needed to complete a game desperately, I decided to give it a go.
The first thing that grabbed my attention (for the worst may I add) was the annoying voiceover that seemed, if anything, detrimental to the game and experience I was having as a whole. I understood why it was there (to give a familiar voice and person to attach to whilst exploring a desolate world), but otherwise, his voice was annoying and his questions were far too philosophical for my liking.
Move past the annoying voice in your head and you soon experience a breath-taking visual affair with the game. Tiles reflect realistically as you make your way around what appears to be an old museum (which has manifested before your very eyes), with every detail, from the wooden bookcases to the golden arches all being stunningly rendered in real-time. I find it insane that a small indie studio made this game, as it genuinely looks like something a AAA studio would create with thousands of pounds and hundreds of artists.
Beyond all that beauty, there is a game to behold, with puzzles being thrown at you with every new room you enter. Whilst some of the puzzles centre around pulling levers to move objects in the world, the vast majority of them involve observation; where you must observe certain objects in the world in order to progress. For example; one room may contain bridge that isn’t in the correct location. Should you look at it and move left, it’ll move left with you, but only when you focus on it.
It’s also through this observation mechanic that the game narrates itself, saying that if one can perceive themselves and only themselves, are they truly alive, or a figment of ones imagination? It’s questions like this that constantly get asked throughout the entire games 2 hour play length, and whilst none of the questions are ever answered, they still leave a good imprint on you once finished.
A fantastic example the questions leaving an imprint was just towards the end of the game, when the narrator you’re controlling finally realises he’s being controlled by you and that he isn’t in control of his own destiny. In this instance, the narrator starts trying to “tug” away from your onward journey towards the games end; a fantastic scene that truly broke the fourth wall and made me partially believe I really was controlling someone against their will.
For all my talk of how annoying the voiceover was in the first half of Pneuma, I genuinely started liking him towards the end. Partially probably because he started talking less often, but also because he stopped being so quirky, stupid, and random and actually started sounding like a proper human being.
The same progression of character cannot be said for the puzzles themselves throughout Pneuma. Whilst they start off difficult in the early sections due to the new mechanic of observing eyes throughout the environment, they soon start becoming repetitive and easy later on, to the point that every new puzzle you come across you merely know to look at it in a new way and it’ll fix itself eventually. It’s a shame the puzzle elements fizzled out, but I suppose you can’t expect the developers to have perfect puzzles throughout with the same limited pallet of puzzle pieces.
Considering the game was only 2 hours long and was fairly enjoyable, I found myself surprised I hadn’t played Pneuma earlier. The game was free on Xbox Live Games with Gold a while back, and whilst I only played it because I was in a hurry and knew it was fast to complete, I still came back to it after seeing the credits, just to make sure I found everything Pneuma had to offer. Should you have Pneuma in your library, I’d hugely recommend investing those few hours into it; you’ll be left impressed, and at the minimum, would have at least enjoyed what you saw.
p.s. I apologise, but this week I was going to do a video review of Pneuma as well. Unfortunately, my video capture card decided to only capture the second half of my play through, so I don’t have enough footage.