‘Pneuma: Breath of Life’ Review


Posted on February 27, 2015 by Alan Walsh

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‘Pneuma: Breath of Life’ is the first game by Deco Digital, a studio located in Derby in the United Kingdom (same place where CameronMines is from). In our interview with Joe Brammer, we were told the game took about 6 months to develop with remaining time used for art, marketing, promotion and audio-recording. Pneuma is a first-person puzzle game in which as the player, you’re forced to solve puzzle(s) to open the next door which leads you onto another puzzle. Once you finish a chapter, you’ll enter a dark room with a bright-shining blue orb-like shape which you look down on for a few seconds to move onto the next chapter. I reviewed the game on Xbox One and you get a 100 Gamerscore Achievement when you finish each chapter and 150 Gamerscore for finishing the Epilogue.

The game features a total of eight unique levels which are divided up into a prologue, epilogue and six chapters in-between. The prologue contains easy puzzles, instead it helps you with the puzzle-concept used in the game and acts mainly as a tutorial. The epilogue also doesn’t contain any difficult puzzles, acting as a conclusion to Pneuma and is more about the narrative and story behind it than the gameplay. The six chapters in-between however, they contain the bulk of the gameplay along with the difficult puzzles. This length of gameplay time will vary on the players skill, however, it’s important to note that the games length isn’t huge. It’s definitely possible to complete the entire game within a couple of hours. I finished the game in the space of two days. There is three additional side puzzles in the game which increase gameplay length though, these are the ‘Spirt’, ‘Body’ and ‘Soul’ puzzles. Involved in these are different tasks along with various collectibles. These offer 50 Gamerscore each which bring you up to 1000 Gamerscore once finishing the main game.

As I’ve said, the game is in first-person and you may question why that is. I actually asked Joe in our interview and you have to play right up until the end. I did and then I understood. I don’t want to spoil, but it involves the idea of “is this you? Are you controlling someone? Is this is a figment of your imagination?” After completing the game, I realized it wasn’t just that. The entire game felt more real and immersive in first person and I don’t think I wouldn’t felt this if the game used a different point of view or angle. The world the game places you in looks real, feels real and acts real – full of challenges which are these puzzles you complete to continue exploring the world of Pneuma.

The puzzles in Pneuma vary when it comes to difficulty. Some are easy, others are trickier and some can be really difficult unless you’re given some kind of hint. There’s nothing that’s impossible to do without a tutorial in Pneuma which I think is important. So while the player may get frustrated after being stuck on a puzzle for 15 to 20 minutes, eventually your mind should trigger what you need to do. They’ll be something in the environment that’ll make you realize, “Oh, maybe I can use this and align it up with this!” for example. It’s this idea of looking into the situation, seeing what your options are and implementing a logical solution rather than trial and error. If you think about the puzzle and try logical solutions, you’ll crack it quick enough. However, if you choose a route of trial and error, you may find the game becoming extremely repetitive which is not the way it’s meant to be played.

One of the interesting things about Pneuma’s puzzles is that they’re always easier than they seem. One of my favourites is the bookcase puzzle in Pneuma’s first chapter. There’s about seven to eight rows of bookshelves, two on each row. One of these has an eye and it’s your objective to walk out the far door staring at the eye so it remains open. Your immediate instinct is to move all the bookshelves and see if you can align them any way possible. However, you only have to move one of the bookshelves and it’s the most obvious one. What might have seemed like the game’s most difficult puzzle is actually the games easiest conundrum! A majority of the games puzzles involve staring at the eye, or multiple eyes. Sometimes aligning a certain number of them on your screen will open the gateway to the next path. In chapter six I remember one part where you stare at this spinning object and to complete the puzzle, you stare at it for thirty seconds. It’s not obvious you do this and it’s probably the last thing a player would think of. There’s always that “ahhhh” moment after you finish a puzzle, especially those that seem easier than expected.

Pneuma may be known for its puzzles, but the games narrative also lures the player to continue playing and discover more in this story. The voice of Pneuma is played by Jay Britton, whom gives you a sense for who Pneuma is and what the game is trying to get across. Some may find the character annoying but you really shouldn’t look at Pneuma from that argument. Instead, looking at the message that’s given, the idea of what’s real and a figment of your imagination becomes a realisation. It’s something you’ll truly experience in the games epilogue. Jay brings something unique to the game which I haven’t seen in other games before and that’s how you feel related to Pneuma and what creates the interactive experience found in the game. Jay also adds humour to the game, the writing is perfect and adds this humorous tone to the game in what would feel dull without it. Jay Britton brings Pneuma to life, both the game and the character of Pneuma and makes you keep playing to discover why are you doing this.

Those who listened to our interview with Joe Brammer will also remember Joe purposed me and Tyler a challenge, to see who could beat the main story of Pneuma first. Well I finished Pneuma on February 17th, beating Tyler. Sorry Ty, better look next time. This challenge is something I think the community could attempt. Imagine you and your mates all purchase Pneuma and decide to see who can finish it first. It’s interesting because it shows who will be dedicated, who’ll get frustrated and who will simply give up. The results of such a task might be surprising.

‘Pneuma: Breath of Life’ is now available on Xbox One for about £12.99/$19.99/€19.99 which I think is great value for the content you get. While the game may feel short if you’re skilled, this isn’t a $60 AAA game that you’re buying, this a $20 game where money supports the developers directly. Listen to our interview, you’ll soon see that the development of this game was a very tough period for the team and it may have never happened if Microsoft had not shown support with ID@Xbox. The team at Deco Digital worked extremely long hours and even did an all-nighter before. When they first started, they barely had enough money to survive. Maybe that $20 isn’t so much now, is it? It’s also worth mentioning that ‘Pneuma: Breath of Life’ is the first ever game on Xbox One to run on Unreal Engine 4. It initially started as a Unity project but during development the team realized they could get much more out of Unreal Engine 4, so they switched to it and it’s noticeable. The game looks spectacular, plays great and allows the imagination to run wild. With everything I’ve outlined above, I’m thrilled to give ‘Pneuma: Breath of Life’ an 9/10. It looks elegant, plays magnificent and is something that gamers need to check out on their Xbox One or Windows PC through Steam.

Pros:

  • Puzzles are challenging but not too difficult. Great for casual players.
  • Graphics are stunning with beautiful artwork.
  • Narrative is brilliant, the idea of figments of imagination is implemented so well.
  • Joe Britton did an excellent voice-over for Pneuma bringing the character to life and adding humour to the game.
  • Price is very affordable.

Cons:

  • Game feels short, especially if skilled at puzzles, therefore lacking replay-ability value.

     

9.0/10

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