Pneuma: Breath of Life Reviews

  • LifeExpectancyLifeExpectancy1,439,997
    27 Feb 2015 27 Feb 2015
    36 10 8
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    Pneuma: Breath of Life is a short but very enjoyable puzzler by Deco Digital. It's a story of wonder and discovery, but ultimately disillusionment. Like Thomas Was Alone, the game's narrator is half of the fun, so you don't want to rush through and finish levels too quickly because you'll miss out on bits of dialogue. And like Unmechanical, another recent puzzler for Xbox One, Pneuma doesn't have any enemies or ways to die. It's strictly focused on puzzle solving and atmospheric story telling.

    The visuals are rather polished and high-production value for an Indy title. That said, I'd suggest playing through without a walkthrough of any sort for your first go so you can focus on the environments, atmosphere, and narration, and less on making sure you don't miss anything. The game clocks in at roughly 2-4 hours for your first go unless you get really stuck on a puzzle, but it's worth it.

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    Even two of the three secret achievements are 'fairly' obvious if you have a keen eye, with only the final one for the 5 paintings presenting a real need for a guide. The puzzles are centered around manipulating objects with your vision and movement in relation to their location, usually using a blue eye either on or near them.

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    Pneuma is a throwback to some of the older exploration/puzzle games like Myst, although a fair bit shorter and simpler. I can't QUITE recommend it at the $20 price point due to said brevity, but I feel like it's a worthwhile venture at or around the $15 mark and the developers behind it have shown great promise here for their future endeavors.

    4-stars due to the shortness, but otherwise a solid and enjoyable puzzler.
    4.0
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    Lord MoleyPantsAm I the only one to find the voice over annoying and the script pretentious and grandiose?
    Posted by Lord MoleyPants on 16 Nov 15 at 21:32
    LifeExpectancyI think that was intentional. I felt like they were being ironic.
    Posted by LifeExpectancy on 17 Nov 15 at 00:53
    FeedMeHumansVoice volume completely off made it more enjoyable for me. Decent game & it was free, can't complain.
    Posted by FeedMeHumans on 25 Nov 15 at 14:26
  • Hyksos15Hyksos1587,515
    23 Nov 2015 23 Nov 2015
    11 6 2
    Pneuma: Breath of Life is reminiscent of the days of Riven and Myst in its puzzles, yet captures the graphical glory of much bigger budget games within its fantastic set pieces and eye-catching attention to detail. Although some areas do not run as smoothly as others, and the length is noticeably short, the game does fantastically well in the areas it targets, and unsurprisingly charms its way to the top of my list of favorite puzzlers.

    Story: The story of Pneuma is more of a linear series of events narrated by an intriguing character who believes himself to be the God of his own little world. Without spoiling anything from the relatively thin plot line, I can say I was pleasantly surprised by just about everything along the short journey through this game's story. The narration is excellent, and I often found myself waiting to complete puzzles so as to be able to hear everything the character had to say about his current situation. The story may be meager, but what it lacks in length/substance, it more than makes up for in intriguing narration and exploration of areas mostly unknown to gaming.

    Graphics: I can be blunt here; the graphics in Pneuma are absolutely stunning. Linoleum halls glisten with reflected sunlight, tree branches sway in the wind, and the distant horizon gives way to a curtain of clouds and stars when the character is traveling in a night setting. There were some texture problems that I occasionally caught out of the corner of my eye, and a few puzzles give way to blurry images that look almost unfinished in certain instances. One of the secret achievement puzzles in particular had me wondering if they simply forgot to finish rounding out a couple of tiles, considering the blurry nature of them as well as the texture pop-in that replaced the smooth tile sliding of earlier puzzles. Besides those very few areas of contention, the visuals are amazing, especially considering the fact that it is an arcade game.

    Sound: The sound of Pneuma rarely falters, and although this may be because of a distinct lack of big set pieces or areas requiring a lot of sound design, I prefer to believe that it is simply Pneuma being wonderful once more. The noise of torches flickering, the sound of stones rolling, even the whirring of futuristic machines and lasers; it all sounds great, and not once was I taken out of the game because something sounded out of place. The character's narration is wonderful, and even though the character sometimes sounds emotionless when commenting on normal things, the voice instantly becomes emotional when the time is right, accentuating the seriousness of certain moments with brutal poignancy.

    Gameplay: The controls are relatively smooth, although I definitely had trouble getting the crosshairs to point accurately at certain areas of a puzzle. This can become frustrating when some of the game's puzzles require pin-point perfection in regards to your targeting of specific tiles or items. I will never forget thinking that I had the solution to a puzzle, only to barely touch the right stick and send my viewpoint flying off in the opposite direction. Although correctable with a sensitivity change, I could not find a happy medium between "too fast" and "too slow" for this game, and that was incredibly disappointing when it came to a game that had lulled me into a false sense of security with its near-perfection in almost every other area.

    Achievements: Short and sweet here. Pneuma is an easy 1,000 Gamerscore. About 3 or 4 hours of play time will net you 1,000 G and a full experience of the game. A couple of the secret puzzles are a little tricky, but definitely worth the time to find.

    Pneuma: Breath of Life was refreshing. It was nice to a see a puzzler that used modern graphics and paid attention to the little details of itself, even going so far as to add a narration that tied everything together very neatly. Despite the length problems (it was incredibly short for a game that someone might consider paying 15 dollars for) and a couple of clunky controls, the game surprised at nearly every turn. It may not be perfect, but Pneuma: Breath of Life is a rare find. Not only will the puzzles challenge you to use your brain, but the subject of the narration will have you thinking for days after the screen fades to black. A couple of minor errors hold the game back from nirvana, but they definitely do not detract much from the overall experience that the game contains. "Charming" is one word that I would use to describe Pneuma: Breath of Life, and it has certainly charmed its way into the upper echelon of short (but very sweet) console puzzlers.
    4.5
  • Archer SpenseArcher Spense1,013,394
    07 Dec 2015 11 Dec 2015
    15 14 0
    Granted that almost nobody has heard of this game until it was offered for free on Games with Gold, I don't suppose this review will serve much of a purpose.... But after having played it last night, I feel compelled to share my feelings.

    First thing's first though. Reviewing Pneuma: Breath of Life as an achievement game? short relatively painless 10/10 would pay $0 to 1k again.

    Reviewing Pneuma as a game though. Well... The first 1/2 isn't much of a game at all. I'd say its a John Oliver walking simulator. That's not an exaggeration. You're literally walking around listening to this John Oliver sounding guy who will not shut up comment on drop dead easy puzzles you solved 2 rooms ago when he's not talking about being God. I mean come on annoying English narrator guy! Its 2015 already! I was at that bridge years ago! Get with the times!

    Depending on your observational/problem solving prowess, it'll be somewhere in chapter 3 you'll run into that first puzzle that will stump you. And here, just about 1/2 through, is where Pneuma decides it wants to become a real game. And the way it does this is by giving the player a puzzle with virtually no clue on how to solve them other than their own wits. Unbelievably it sort of works. That is when you can see or tell what the puzzle is. Sometimes you can't at all. I reached for a walkthrough to direct me towards puzzles I didn't notice where there more times than I used one to solve them. That ought to tell you something about the sort of puzzler Pneuma is.

    That aside, there's not much here to Pneuma. It comes across as a tech demo showing off hardware/software/programmer capabilities. Its not a terrifically engaging game at all. And its extremely short. 1k'ing the game can be done in less than 2 hours. Pneuma never does anything exceptionally good or bad as a game. The only fault I can find with it is the extremely long loading times between chapters. And maybe the insufferable narrator. Other than that, the game is completely unremarkable. There's nothing to see here. You won't miss anything if you never play it.

    I will say this though. Pneuma's epilogue attempting to break down the 4th wall in an artistically pretentious symbolic way more or less gives away that it was an attempt at doing the same "games as art" crap like other non-games like The Stanley Parable. Tech garbage that appeals to hipsters bearing little to none of the characteristics of a real game. What saves Pneuma from being part of the worst genre ever conceived is the fact it actually contains puzzles that provide some sort of challenge.

    TBH, after having played Pneuma, I wouldn't have paid anything more than the $0 I spent on it. Its forgettable, too short, and once its beaten there's no reason to play again.

    (my rating system 1*: not worth it, 3* ok, 5*: good)
    1.0
  • Danny Dubs 86Danny Dubs 861,280,539
    21 Feb 2016
    6 7 0
    Originally posted on my blog at http://takeaimandgame.blogspot.com/

    One of the things I love most about video games is the discovery. A new game brings all kinds of things to uncover: new controls and mechanics, new characters to meet and a new world to explore, new challenges and puzzles and strategies. In my mind, testing the boundaries of the rules and learning to use those rules to your advantage are some of the greatest joys in gaming.

    Pneuma: Breath of Life is almost a perfect embodiment of that particular gaming pleasure... briefly. It's way too short, and the story goes deep into pretentious and annoying territory, but it offers a thoroughly fulfilling gameplay experience (while it lasts, anyway).

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    The Basics
    Pneuma starts with the narrator and player character asserting rather confidently that he is god. He commands the world, creating the corridors and decor surrounding him.

    Or something like that.

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    Despite the grandiose introduction, Pneuma is just a first-person puzzle game that reminds me pretty strongly of the Myst series - you're thrust into this world with no real setup (aside from the narrator's mostly inconsequential rambling), and your only focus is to push your way through.

    As you progress through the stages, you'll uncover new puzzles with new mechanics, but you have to figure out how they all work through trial and error. Nothing is every spelled out explicitly (at least, not in advance - there are a few places where the narrator will remark about something you just did), so you're left with your wits and details of the game world to make progress.

    The Good
    And honestly, that's awesome.

    It adds an interesting element to the problem solving necessary to move forward - not only do you have to figure out the solution to each puzzle, you also have to spend time playing with it to learn how it works.

    In some cases, the solution may be clear, but the way you manipulate the puzzle may not be. Other times, the situation is reversed, and you'll find yourself struggling more to find the right path to the answer.

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    It's generally a nice change of pace from most modern games, and I really wish we'd see this kind of gameplay more often.

    The Bad
    Unfortunately, Pneuma isn't the best vehicle for this particular gameplay experience, and the major flaws come down into three big categories.

    The first is the one that's least important - the narrator is exceptionally long-winded and the story tries way too hard. The end result is that common monologues are really annoying, and the game's finale seems... blunt. The developers clearly tried to do something interesting with the storyline, but it falls completely flat. It was terribly executed all around.

    Second, the game is incredibly short. I completed it in about two hours, and because it's completely reliant on puzzles, there is zero replay value. Obviously your mileage will vary depending on how quickly you pick up on each puzzle, but I imagine the majority of gamers will finish between one and four hours - not really worth the $20 price tag when compared to some other games on the market.

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    Third and finally, the most damning flaw: most of the puzzles are relatively simple. The developers had the freedom to change basic gameplay mechanics for each puzzle, which opens a huge range of potential interactions, but the game hardly explores that space of possibilities. Most of the puzzles are fairly straightforward, and you can easily brute force your way through some of them that are not. I was expecting larger, more complicated puzzles as I progressed, but that big payoff just never happened. It reduces the game to a series of brief puzzles when it could have been so much more.

    To be totally fair, there are a few optional puzzles that definitely qualify as "larger, more complicated puzzles," though it's easy not to notice that they're even there. It just leaves this huge void between the single-step puzzles of the main story and the incredibly opaque optional puzzles.

    The Achievements
    Being a pure puzzle game, the achievement list for Pneuma is really simple. If you get stuck with something (or you don't want to deal with it in the first place), you can easily look up a guide for how to complete any particular puzzle, and even the hardest puzzles in the game will only take about 15 minutes to complete once you know what to do. It's an easy completion, definitely under 5 hours, and more likely under 3.

    Overall, Pneuma could have been an amazing game with a few more difficult puzzles to lengthen the whole thing a bit and if they'd just cut the narration. As it stands, it's great if you're looking for a unique gameplay experience, but even so it provides relatively little bang for your buck. It's definitely worth checking out if you can get it heavily discounted, but otherwise you're probably better off investing your time and money elsewhere.

    My Rating: 5/10 - ok.

    (For more info on my rating system, including overall stats, see http://takeaimandgame.blogspot.com/p/reviews.html)
    2.5