It’s perhaps rather hard to get people excited about rolling a ball along a line. That’s all Proun is, when it comes down to it. Crucially though, it’s a game about rolling a ball along a line while feeling absolutely, amazingly joyous.
Proun is a racing game, more or less. You’re one of several balls, spinning along a spiralling, undulating, rotating, impossible track through a parade of abstract dimensions. All you need to do is roll, left or right, to dodge obstacles that, if hit, will temporarily splatter your ball into an aghast smattering of spikes and cost you valuable momentum. Hit as a few obstacles as possible to win the race. That’s all there is to it.
But it’s the sheer verve and cheer of Proun that makes it such a remarkable play. From the crazed jazz piano soundtrack to the stylised, painterly and always gigantic backdrops and even down to how it evokes the thrill of speed, Proun will quite simply make you feel good. It’s a celebration of the rawest essence of gaming: electronic light and sound, designed to stimulate the mind and depict the physically impossible.
It’s easy to learn and only a little less easy to master. Higher difficulty means far faster, sometimes even terrifying speed - challenging your reflexes and forward-thinking but requiring little more in the way of tactics. The key advice to keep in mind is that rolling your ball left or right slows you down, so choose your moments wisely if you don’t want a rival orb (mercifully intangible when they pass through you or vice-versa) - collision in this game would mean incredible carnage) to slip by you.
Proun’s a delight to behold, using huge shapes and contrasting colours to cheerfully outdo any number of far more hi-tech games on an aesthetic level, and deftly enough that you might not guess at its humble, low-budget indie origins. Where that does show is in its tiny handful of tracks. Opt for the pay-what-you-want full version rather than the otherwise complete free version and you’ll be blessed with one more circuit, but you’ll still have seen everything within a half hour. Of course, this isn’t a game designed to continually spout new stuff at you - the aim is to get better and better and better at the race. Nonetheless, salvation comes in the form of its openness to modding, and a small but dedicated community who’ve come up with beautiful new tracks that further expand Proun’s aesthetic accomplishments (for instance, one that has you rolling through a cartoon steampunk sky-world) while also being an absolute snap to install. Just grab a file, drop it in your install directory and you’re ready to play.
Proun’s about as simple as a game can be, in many ways harkening back to a simpler age of Ataris and Acorns, but it’s dressed up in thoroughly modern clothes. Quite simply, it’s a party - and in this age of dour, grey’n’brown sagas about big men repeatedly shooting lots of other big men and bloated, melodramatic stories that take themselves and their absurdity far too seriously, an explosion of colour, speed and abstract silliness could well be exactly what you need.