Ever wonder what it would be like to awaken and realize that you are responsible for the act of creation? Not only the creation of anything and everything, but your creation as well? The best way I can describe the basic premise of Pneuma is “God Simulator”, not to be confused with that ever important and equally creative Goat Simulator. Upon your birth you begin to realize, through a fantastically funny and self-absorbed narration, that you are indeed the master of this universe and simple acts such as movement and changing your perspective lead to the creation of your world. Through the sheer act of will you are able to create form and structure, light and shadow, however; as you progress in your world you will be tested. Pneuma is a puzzle game first and foremost. The concept of perspective is central to everything you’ll do in Pneuma and environmental puzzles all conform to this one key concept.
The gameplay is rather straightforward, involving progressing through 6 chapters that all have a common theme relating to the nature of self and who or what is in control of all our lives. Puzzles range from the simple step on platform A to move platform B, all the way through needing to completely think outside the box and see things in 4 dimensions; again perspective being the motivating factor to solving most of the puzzles you’ll encounter as the game progresses past the earlier chapters.
Graphically I was really impressed with the way that the environments seem to “draw in” as you progress through them, let there be light and the lighting engine responds, let there be form from the void, and in kind complex geometry responds to your words. As an early Unreal Engine 4 title you get a sense that games based on this tech will truly be a treat once developers really start to utilize all it has to offer. As you progress, all the while listening to this “God” praise himself and all the power he possess at his fingertips, you begin to wonder if this world is truly one of his creation or if he is just another unwilling participant in what is at its core a simulation for the players enjoyment.
Its here, in this one key moment that Pneuma succeeds in bridging the gap between simply playing a game and controlling a life. As the player, you’ve come to believe that you are just an unwilling participant in this story, the story of a “God”. The narrator believes that he is responsible for everything and anything in this world, however; it’s he who is the one being controlled by you. The moment that this character that you’ve been passively controlling, or so you thought, realizes that he is being used by you the player and begins to break that wall between just being a character in a game and speaking to you the player directly is just pure bliss.
As you push on trying to get him to do your will he fights back. Try to get him to move foreword by using the left stick and he pushes back against your command and tries to move back, turn left? No, he wants to go right. Finally as you both work hard to impose your will on one another, this “God” realizes that even as an unwilling participant in this simulated life, he has been able to influence you just as much as you him. The nature of existence and who or what is in control of all our lives is the question and the answer may not be as black and white as any of us think.