Circa 1920, Russian artist El Lissitzky coined the term Proun (proun-ouned as “pro-oon”) to describe his abstract, geometric art style. He personally described it as “the station where one changes from painting to architecture”, which could mean many things, or nothing, but in any event was seen as a branch of the suprematism art movement. It all sounds terribly pretentious, so I bet you’re currently asking “what in the blazes does any of this have to do with video games,” and I’d respond with a witty, “Ah, but that’s what YOU think.” Or maybe I’d actually get around to telling you that all this knowledge forms the basis of today’s review for a racing game called Proun+. Let’s roll.
Proun+ is a 3D, on-rail (note, singular) racing game wherein instead of a car, you’re piloting a fluffy ball-like thing across an obstacle course. The track, of course, is the tube-shaped aforementioned rail, and the obstacles are scattered carelessly across the rail, for you to conveniently avoid. Tying in with the suprematism theme is the nature of the obstacles: all weird geometric constructs and crazy swirls. Honestly, it feels much as if you were racing through an LSD trip than artistic depiction.
You don’t control the speed of the ball, just it’s rotation around the tube, but it’s only got the term “racer” because there are other fluffy balls to compete against. Proun+’s various modes are all speed calibrations, and start with “Relaxed” and passing through “Super Sonic” to “Speed of Light”, which seems a smudge ambitious, if you cared to ask me.
To control your orbicular racer, you can either tap the circle pad, or use motion controls. It’s a case of “try both and see”, because while others have found the circle pad the better method, I found motion control more intuitive. For either method, though, the controls are delightfully responsive, and the little ball-thing spirals quickly in whichever direction you choose.
There are a scant 11 different tracks in the game, and you’ll find that memorization is the order of the day if you have any intent on getting through the game. In the faster stages, the obstacles whip by so fast that barest twitch reactions are the only thing that stands between you and utter defeat. Across the 11 tracks, there a three modes of play: race, points, and endless. I shouldn’t be explaining to you all what race mode does, but points mode has you complete a specified number of laps around the track with you collecting points tokens. It’s actually more strategic than you’d think, since collecting successive tokens of the same value increases a multiplier, and racing on without crashing into any of the regular obstacles also increases a multiplier. Do you crash and get a token worth 100 points, or avoid the obstacle and increase the 25-point multiplier you have going? Is your multiplier worth more if you go for the 25 points? Or will going for the 100 points earn more points? It gets stressful. And then there’s endless mode, which is only endless for as long as you can continue dodging obstacles perfectly, or when your patience for that level wears thin. After each level, you’re presented with a global scoreboard, but unless your name appears in the top 10, don’t expect to see it any time soon.
Despite the game’s origin on iOS devices (or strictly speaking, as a sequel to a PC game), it feels made for the 3DS, because once you turn that 3D slider up, the game pops out at you in glorious detail, and if you’re playing it without the 3D, or on a 2DS, you’re really missing out on the best part of the game’s visuals. The 3D is actually one of the best reasons to buy this game, and there are few 3DS games where that can be said.
Still, despite the good looks and the jazzy soundtrack, the game has limited appeal. There’s no way to change, customize, or upgrade the ball. Any progress you make is purely on your own skill, for better or for ill. And with only 11 tracks across four modes (and six speeds), there’s not that much variety, sadly. It’s wonderful in short bursts though, for example when you have to wait for someone, or wait for a queue to move. On the other hand, if you’re the type to rise to the challenge of lighting fast games, then this one is truly for you. Either way, it’s something that should be at least tried, if only for the visuals.
Final Score: 7 Proun Prawns out of 10
Developer: Joost van Dongen
Publisher: Engine Games
Platform: Nintendo 3DS family
Age Rating: 0