Prune: $3.99 to trim trees and make sure they’re growing into the sunlight. Not exactly love at first impression, but my curiosity was peaked. I arrived late to the Prune party, with many rave reviews already saturating the “Prune Game” Google search; but—of course—it’s never too late to form your own opinions.
Prune’s simple premise and higher price tag mimic the content of the game. It’s not designed to be exciting in the traditional sense, the simple premise is meant to create game play that’s a simple pleasure. The art style and music is minimalistic and soothing. As far as length, the game is broken down into five chapters—each containing multiple levels. All of this makes Prune an exhale from auto-runners. Something different entirely. Normally, I’d address the price at the end (as an after note) but this time it warrants discussion. Prune isn’t a Free-to-Play or 99 cent download. Prune’s price is making an argument: this is a legitimate game that deserves to be taken seriously. And, in a market saturated by games that are cheap in price and quality, this is an important claim.
Prune’s controls are simple and the first chapter serves as an implicit tutorial, laying the groundwork for gaming to come. The main controls are pruning the trees with a swipe of your finger across the branch(es) you wish to remove. The second main control is zooming in/out, which can be done by doing a pinch motion (in/out) on the screen. Eventually, more is introduced such as touching a small light source orb to manipulate the way your tree grows.
As game play continues it becomes clear the world is a hard place for a tree. The black walls and black orbs will crush its branches and the red orbs will cause the tree to become infected, withering pieces away as the infection spreads. However, this dark world is full of hope. As you prune unnecessary branches and your tree grows into beams of sunlight, flowers bloom. Your tree has other help as well, for example: blue orbs help your tree grow faster and gain blue flowers. When the number of flowers bloomed matches the number of stars in the sky, your tree will glow a triumphant white and you’re free to proceed to the next level. Of course, many levels have additional secrets if you can prune your tree tall enough.
Prune starts off slow… so easy I wondered if it was meant to challenge at all. I was happy to see the difficulty increase and, as it did, the game grew on me. While I never fell in love with Prune, the game managed to draw me in. There’s a comforting joy in watching your tree’s flowers bloom against the evening backdrop. There’s a pride in watching the branches successfully strain themselves towards the light. I even felt moments of emotional investment and I sadly watched my tree’s branches waver and collapse in their brittleness. While the game is designed to be a soothing, experiential, challenge, all these adjectives trip over each other: I walk away from the game not fully relaxed or challenged. This game may be outside-the-box but the idea surpasses its implementation. In the end Prune is just solid.