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Pneuma: Breath of Life – Review

Pneuma: Breath of Life – Review

Pneuma is a brave attempt to put a philosophical context to puzzle adventure gaming and I wholeheartedly recommend the game to the fans of this genre.


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Genre: Puzzle Adventure 
Release date: February 27, 2015

Pneuma: Breath of Life first got my attention with its highly striking trailer video. Not all games offer you to play as a god! Plus, it seemed to have beautiful graphics and lots of challenging puzzles. As a puzzle game maniac, I immediately wanted to get my hands on it. Although what I got was much different than what I expected, I can’t say I’m disappointed. Pneuma is a very enjoyable, albeit short game, which ambitiously mixes philosophy and puzzle-solving.

First of all, the game’s main premise “play a god” is a bit misleading. You don’t create anything or manage your own universe. Rather, you start the game without any knowledge of your surroundings and quickly declare yourself as the god of this world since that is the only logical explanation – well at least you convince yourself that this makes sense. Throughout your journeys you observe your interactions with the environment and question your position as a supreme being, as well as your own existence.

I think this narrative aspect of the game is a very nice break from the “nameless, genderless, voiceless protagonist” we usually have in puzzle adventure games. Not only does it serve as an online “Philosophy 101” course for people who aren’t familiar with Plato and Descartes, it also puts the whole story into an exciting context. You end up anticipating what will happen next, which is a very rare feat in puzzle adventures. Having said that, given the experimental nature of the story I was a bit concerned about how the writers were going to give a proper ending to the game. I’m glad to say that Pneuma has a very satisfying and surprising ending that fits with all philosophical themes narrated throughout the story.

Most of the puzzles in Pneuma are based on how you see things or, more accurately, your point of view of the world. The usual puzzle mechanics, buttons and levers are largely absent from the game; instead you manipulate your environment by “looking at” or “looking away” from the objects. I think this aspect of the game fits very well with the main theme of the story. After all, a god should not need to push levers all the time! I believe another reason why the designers opted for this type of game mechanic is to fully embrace Oculus Rift’s features. Unfortunately I don’t have one, so I couldn’t test how well it works with the game. However I’m guessing that turning your head rather than moving your mouse should be a fun and engaging experience.

The puzzles themselves aren’t very difficult, and apart from a few instances they are well-designed and fun to solve. Some of them are very straightforward and some of them (especially a few towards the end) require some out-of-the-box thinking. Most require that you to think in terms of space and geometry of the world. Hence there are no ne of the code-breaking or logic puzzles that are abundant in Myst-like games. Each chapter contains an isolated environment and a sequence of independent puzzles. In that aspect, gameplay is very similar to the Portal series; you solve puzzles one-by-one and follow a linear sequence.

To be honest, there is only one fatal flaw that prevents Pneuma from reaching the “A” grade: the length. The game can easily be finished under 3-4 hours. Right when the puzzles start to get more intricate and interesting, the game ends. Although the ending is beautiful, I was really let down by the lack of content. I find this to be a continuing issue with the modern adventure game. Most of them are very short, easy and lacking a sufficient amount of puzzles/challenges.

In terms of visuals, the game excels in lighting and shadows but performs poorly in texture variety. Most of the locations are based on Roman and Greek-style architecture, and seeing the same types of columns and gardens over and over gets boring after awhile. Music is mostly above average with a nice mix of classical and ambient. The voiceover for the protagonist is awesome, which is good because all those philosophical rants could have been really annoying otherwise.

Pneuma is a brave attempt to put a philosophical context to puzzle adventure gaming. It also has some innovative puzzle mechanics and a decent ending. I really wish the game would have had more puzzles and longer gameplay. Since puzzle-driven adventures are getting harder and harder to come by, I wholeheartedly recommend Pneuma to the fans of this genre.

Grade: B
Innovative puzzle mechanics
Very Satisfying and surprising ending 
Great voiceover  
– Too short

System Requirements

OS: Windows 7 64-bit 
Processor: Core 2 Duo E6600 / Athlon 64 X2 6400 
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 / ATI Radeon HD 5770
DirectX: Version 11
Hard Drive: 12 GB available space
Additional Notes: Virtual reality mode not recommended on minimum specs.

Kemal Ure

Kemal Ure

Kemal Ure is an avid adventure gaming fan, artificial intelligence nerd and death metal bass player. He got hooked on adventure games at 1998 when he first played Grim Fandango. Later he discovered Myst and Gabriel Knight, which led him to start a personal quest on playing all the adventure games ever published. After years of gaming he discovered that he has a lot to say about adventure games and started writing reviews at his personal blog. Eventually he started writing for JustAdventure at 2014. He mostly prefers games with challenging puzzles and dark stories.He is currently a professor of aerospace engineering at Istanbul Technical University, Turkey. He got his PhD degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at 2015. When he is not teaching at the university or playing adventure games, he spends most of his time playing bass for various metal bands and composing music. He publishes bass playthrough videos regularly at his YouTube channel.

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