We have been waiting for Prune since early-2015, and put it on our list of the most anticipated mobile games of the year based on the IMGA nominations and awards.
Being a sci-fi aficionado that I am, I used to read a lot of Ray Bradbury, and though reading isn’t something millenials like to boast off, I read the Martian Chronicles, and more and more references in the games and movies remind me of the all-time classic. So does Prune, an all-around winner and a game we have been anticipating for a long time now. Now that it launched on the iTunes and we get a better idea of what this game is about, Prune looks like something we will happily put on out list of the best games of the year.
Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles has a chapter called The Green Morning, which tells a story of Benjamin Driscoll, a member of an expedition to Mars. His crew are trying to turn Mars into a more Earth-like planet, and human towns spring on the planet. The red planet lacks oxygen, and Driscoll makes it his mission to plant as many trees as he can, so he sets out on a lonesome trip across the empty hills and fields of Mars, planting seeds wherever he goes to increase oxygen levels. Little does he know about a curious property of the Martian soil as he settles for the night, but when he wakes up, he finds miles and miles behind him have turned into blossoming forest – overnight.
Prune is a Zen-like game about pruning trees, and it’s unbelievably atmospheric. No words, no text – just you, the trees, the forces of nature and the evil-hood of man somewhere in the bakcground. And then, there is Kyle Preston’s meditation-inducing soundtrack that makes your brain waves vibrate at higher frequencies.
Tap to make a seed grow and swipe to give it direction. Cut off the branches that have no way to reach the sunlight and watch how the tree grows and reaches for the light. Avoid deep shades that make it stagnate and die off; avoid the red – it’s clearly something toxic. Make use of the nature’s forces, or avoid their destroying your creation, adjust your tree to the complicated environmental and topographic conditions. It’s demanding, but not overwhelming.
In an interview to Tech Insider, Prune’s developer Joel MacDonald said “One of my main goals when designing ‘Prune’ was to respect the player’s intelligence and to respect their time, whether that player is 4 or 74. So much of the mobile game market just does not do this incredibly simple thing of respecting their players as actual human beings whose time is precious.”
So yes, the game is increasingly challenging, yet there are no timers, nor highscores. Your goal is to grow a tree tall enough to reach the sunlight and blossom. As the petals appear and then fly off with the wind, you’ll know the seeds are flying with them, too. So, your tree, even if it dies, has sewn life in some other part of the desolate landscape.
You can of course zoom in for precise cuts and shape a beautiful silhouette as the game does not urge an immediate solution, yet some levels will be fast and requiring quick thinking and careful planning at the same time.
The design is minimalist and dazzling, the way minimalist designs can be – pastel beige and gray, bright red and deep black create quite an atmosphere… I don’t know, apocalyptic? The beautiful soundtrack further amplifies the ambiance of a lonesome survival struggle, which nonetheless can be a relaxing, meditative gameplay.
The game is currently available on the iTunes only, but the developer tells us an Android port is in the works. Offering five chapters with some six levels per each, Prune is a no-IAP, no-ads premium title that will set you back $4, and even though the game might not be the longest of them, it is unique in that Monument Valley-ish manner, in a way that even when you have completed it, you will always have those blue days when you just feel like getting back to it. And provided there is already a Prune rip-off on Google Play, this game has all the potential to create a new trend of its own in mobile gaming, just like ustwo’s game did last year.
Joel MacDonald used to work on titles like Call of Duty and Wolfenstein as a part of Raven Software team for seven years. Prune is his independent debut, which was supposed to be a couple of months deal, but ended up with 15 months labor. And the hard work is obviously paying off, as much as the marketing investments. The game has already been highly acclaimed by iOS gamers and reviewers, as well as various international game contest and festivals – 11th IMG, Brazil’s FILE, IndiePlus “Make Something Great” and Out of Index Experimental Games Festival.
If you are on the fence about a $4 investment, my heart is totally with Prune, and there already is a fan base of Android users anxiously waiting for the port. It is more than a tap and swipe strategy – there is a philosophical meaning there, deep beneath the dry sands of Midwest, and you should expect to uncover a touching story, in the least. Some of those mute silhouettes look ominously familiar, or does my imagination play with me, and the turbines I see are just a part of the design?
Play the game and let us know what you think in the comments below, or join a conversation on our forums. Don’t forget to like, subscribe and follow our Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Flipboard and Google+ pages for more news on all things mobile gaming and productivity.