Can a game be more than mere entertainment? Will plot ever topple mechanics? These must have been the two questions fueling the creation of Protothype.  The Italian-born title hopes to be perceived more as a narrative experience than a proper challenge.

Still, puzzles and and a story to follow while beating them sounded pretty fun to us! We were asked for an unbiased review directly by the team behind the game and were given a free copy of it in exchange. Yes, that line was added just to make things transparent for everyone.

What happened next is still hard to describe. The last thing I personally remember was booting up the game and beginning a session. Huge doses of both frustration and happiness were quick to distort the following few of hours.

An Interesting Concept…

Despite its size or lack thereof, Protothype could still easily fill a room. The idea of using interactive media as a vessel for narrative has been discussed for years. Both academic theses and conventions dedicated to the topic exist, with hundreds of independent developers trying their collective hand at it every month.

In this case, the plot follows the life of an adolescent student. First loves, insecurities, and self-doubt feature heavily in this little drama in a bubble. Writing and early level design were heading in the right direction. As the game came together, though, something must have happened to veer them off course.

protothype puzzle heart

Rough around the edges, but still a solid puzzle!

The first moments with Protothype are immediately painful. Jittery mouse sensitivity and odd fonts make navigating the menus a lot harder than it should be. We were also shocked to find out that a puzzle game had no saving system, almost as if the developers wanted you to drink your entire vial of poison in one sitting.

Interaction with the player remains puzzling as the adventure progresses. Limited fields of view and slow reaction times come into play, returning an experience that is sluggish and uncomfortable to bear.

Navigating a virtual world shouldn’t be much different from driving a sports car. You move your hands and expect what you’re commandeering to follow. The tighter it is, the better it gets! Protothype didn’t seem up to the challenge from the get-go.

… Lacking Solid Foundations!

For  a narrative experience to feel compelling, anything behind the back of the stage must be pristine. Nobody would want to be disturbed by continuous fluctuations in the frame-rate or stuttering whenever new items are added to the scene. The entire performance will have to be as seamless and natural as humanly possible.

protothype wrong

Actually, It kinda does!

This is probably the worst problem tainting Protothype. What should have been an intriguing interactive drama of which you – to a certain extent – help set the tone quickly turns into a fight with your own keyboard and mouse.

The protagonist slides on the floors as if on wheels, often slamming his head on corners and other parts of the scenery.  Such shortcomings were especially visible when the title threw time-based challenges our way. A rule of thumb for all developers: if your project’s controls aren’t the best part of it, avoid putting pressure on the player as much as possible.

Mokeys Tales Studio‘s second full project; Protothype could have definitely used a touch more quality control before being released to the public. We visited the title’s Steam page, only to discover that less than 5 people had left a review. The very name of this game may have something to do with that.

When putting together the series of letters that best represents the result of your efforts, picking an alternative spelling of a common word means shooting yourself in the foot. Most search engines will deal with your pages as if you spelled the term correctly, sorting them accordingly. Neither your game nor any related review will get the visibility they may deserve.

A Faint Glimmer of Hope!

Protothype certainly isn’t ready for the commercial market. When any money is asked for a product, a certain degree of quality must be ensured. This game, even months after its original release date, is still far from being able to do so.

That, though doesn’t make it a complete failure. As I mentioned before, some of its features and mechanics were actually well-enough made. The narration rises strong from several solid lines and the characters are real enough to be understandable. Puzzles could need a bit of work, but still manage to result both challenging at first and extremely obvious once the solution has been found.

What the guys at Monkey Tales Studios should do is take a few steps back and reassess their project. Spend more time ironing out the bugs, build a functional and enthralling game, and market it well; fans will flock to your door for a chance to play it!

 

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