Friday, January 8, 2016

Video Game Review: Pneuma Breath of Life (Xbox One)

Pneuma: Breath of Life (Xbox One/PS4/PC)
Publisher: Deco Digital & Bevel Studios
Developer: Deco Digital & Bevel Studios
Genre: First-Person Puzzler
Platform Played For Review: Xbox One

"It has an interesting story, but the execution was flawed."

Pneuma: Breath of Life is a rather simple video game, so I won't ramble much in this review. (Far less than the main character in Pneuma, at least.) The character you control believes he's a god. His creation is spontaneous, much like the world around him. He goes from one place to another, yammering about his purpose and his abilities. Occasionally, he questions his existence – if he's a god, why can't he walk through walls? It's a very blatant existential crisis. That's... That's about it, really. It all leads to a very interesting ending. Unfortunately, due to the lack of subtlety, it's a fairly predictable finale. I didn't hate it, I actually liked it, but it did feel underwhelming.

The gameplay is rather simple; you don't need any tools or a HUD.
Pneuma: Breath of Life is a basic puzzle game. The narrative is simple. It has themes that video games rarely tackle, but it's still thin. The gameplay is about as thin as the story. The puzzles in this game are based on sight and movement – you don't have any special trinkets or powers. You stare at something, then walk around it. Sometimes you even look at the ground. Most of these puzzles are ridiculously easy, especially during the first half of the game. Some of the puzzles are a bit more difficult, though. However, I felt some of the more difficult puzzles were due to hidden information rather than clever design. Regardless, I liked some, disliked others. Nothing really stuck out.

A Breath of Life blends its pleasant visuals and understated music to craft a tranquil aura.
I thought the constant narration was decent at first, but it quickly became a bit irritating. As soon as I entered the next room, ready to start the next puzzle, I found myself distracted by the constant blabbering. I simply wanted to play, but I often had to wait until the blatant narration finished. At one point, I said, "I get it already... Get on with it." At times, I felt the writing was too obsessed with delivering a message that it forgot to entertain – it forgot to craft a grander story or a more fine-tuned character conflict. Otherwise, the game is technically good. It has a very tranquil aura thanks to the crisp graphics, elegant style, and understated music.

Some puzzles even involve jumping!
Overall, Pneuma is a decent puzzle game. It has an interesting story, but the execution was flawed. Some of the puzzles were clever, but many were forgettable. The narrative and gameplay are very thin. Fortunately, it's only 3-4 hours long. Usually, that would be a bad thing, but I feel Pneuma's impact would have been further hindered with a longer game length. Its impression is already faint enough. If you picked this up when it was free with Games with Gold, then I'd say it's worth a test run. If you're looking to buy the game, I'd say wait for a price drop.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Some themes may be complicated to grasp for younger gamers, but it's a safe puzzle game otherwise.

[Screenshots captured on Xbox One and used for review purposes only. I do not claim ownership to the IP.]

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