Pneuma: Breath of Life is a First-Person Puzzle game about a character, Pneuma, becoming self-aware. It raises questions on what it means to be self-aware. It raises questions on what it means to be a Player in control of a character that is self-aware.
As with any person that embarks on a path in life (which is every person), we experience initial feelings of euphoria and the impression of power and control. But the further we proceed in life, the more we realize how little control and power we truly have. We solve puzzles and learn things that seem to be leading somewhere and to something, but we have little to no knowledge of where and what that somewhere and something might be. The puzzles in Pneuma: Breath of Life serve as wonderful metaphors for these life-long struggles. Starting as simple environmental obstacles, gradually becoming more complex as Pneuma’s internal dialog and intellect become more complex. The puzzles themselves never truly stumped me, although I did find myself having to look solutions up twice. In both instances, though, I was stuck because I missed something obvious (I blame it on midnight gaming and exhaustion).
The Neo-Classical (ancient Greek and Roman style) Art design, as well as the orchestral music create a wonderful environment that blends perfectly with the Philosophical themes in the plot. Voice actor, Jay Britton, portrays Pneuma with wonderful tones of humor, excitement, and depth. All of which led me to truly care about the character of Pneuma and deeply relate with him, especially since I’ve been having similar philosophical questions in my own life.
By the end of the game, I realized how much I truly cared for Pneuma and found myself actually talking aloud to the screen as if he were real. I felt a kind of kinship with him. I found myself laughing at his child-like thoughts throughout most of the game. This strong connection led to feelings of guilt, knowing that I served as a catalyst to a somewhat tragic realization he has at the game’s finale.
Pneuma: Breath of Life might not fully satisfy someone looking for puzzles as complex as those found in other puzzlers, such as The Witness. But, it is a short and less expensive alternative that manages to leave the player with philosophical quandaries, and a distinct reminder of both how large and small we humans are in relation to the unknown Universe we live in.