A Russian artist named El Lissitzky coined the term "Proun" for use as a title to describe his series of abstract paintings, which challenged traditional views on geometry and perspective. Though the exact meaning of the word was never fully explained, his Proun works evolved to fit new mediums, and spanned over half a decade in total. Proun+ brings a little touch of this to the 3DS, and quite fittingly it's unlike anything else currently available on the eShop.
With that bit of background info out of the way - which we totally didn't just Google - Proun+ can be neatly summarized as a high-speed racing game set on a fixed cable. You control a fast moving sphere that constantly charges forward, so the primary focus is on rotating its position around the cable 360 degrees in order to avoid obstacles. It's a concept that blends the twitch, quickplay nature of runner games with a wholly unique artstyle, in order to create something that's both addictive and attractive.
The overall aesthetic of the game is a major selling point, and marries particularly well with the quirky "on-rail" gameplay it features to send players rocketing through tightly designed environments that soar with originality. Every level is abstract and surreal, drenched in the artistic inspiration of Mondriaan and Kandinsky, but many of them also manage to convey an overall tone that allows your imagination to fill in the blanks. At one moment, it feels as though you're racing through the bowels of a chaotic factory, while the next level could send you flying through the colourful debris of a party in the sky. A peppy jazz/rock soundtrack adds to the chaos with a few original tunes as well, though it's bound to be hit-or-miss for some.
Turning the 3D effect on improves the visuals even more; adding a sense of depth that not only further immerses you, but can legitimately help with navigating some of the more cluttered areas on certain levels. Thankfully, toggling this option doesn't hamper a delightfully smooth framerate throughout, with only very isolated moments of minor slowdown experienced during our playthrough. As the game regularly demands precision - particularly on higher difficulties - it's a relief to report that the developer has nailed the port from iOS to Nintendo's platform when it comes to performance.
The controls are pleasingly responsive as well, with the option of using either physical buttons or the 3DS gyroscope to tilt your way to victory. Though our preference was definitely to stick with the Circle Pad, you can also tinker with the sensitivity of the motion controls in-game, so it's worth trying out both control schemes to see what clicks most. It's simplistic, but mastering Proun+ requires the player to become one with the sphere, and take no prisoners when it comes to the variety of different event types.
For the most part, these events all revolve around keeping your momentum up and avoiding obstacles, but tip the balance between pure speed and precision each time, forcing you to consider how you approach them individually. Races pit you against AI opponents, while Time Trials have you compete against your own ghosts to earn a personal best - which can then be posted to online leaderboards. Dodging the scenery here charges up your boost power, though a few bumps along the way aren't always the end of the world.
On the contrary, Endless levels are all about the precision, where just one little knock against any part of the stage will result in a failure. The goal is to last as long as possible, so it's better to take your time here and slow down enough to keep control. Points challenges blend these two mentalities together, as you build up a score by passing through coloured markers that denote certain values. Speed will make more use of your limited time, and a touch of precision will help target the high-paying colours.
There are also five different levels of difficulty to unlock, ranging from Relaxed to Speed of Light. Unsurprisingly, these directly (and quite drastically) affect the speed of the game itself, and you'll have to earn at least one star from every event under one setting before you can progress on to the next. Proun+ certainly puts up a very strong challenge on later difficulties, and we'd urge casual players to keep that in mind when considering a purchase. Every level is reminiscent of the famous Death Star trench run from Star Wars, where your trajectory is straight but total concentration is needed to make it to the goal in one piece. It's highly unlikely that you're going to be able to beat most of these challenges without a few attempts, as the game relies too much on basic trial and error until you learn the course well enough to master your timing. Dancing through obstacles with perfect accuracy at high speed is a sheer joy, but it's one which you'll have to work towards.
With a grand total of just 11 different stages, repetition is inevitable as you tackle the various events and revisit familiar courses. However beautiful these levels can be, your tolerance for this will vary greatly depending on whether or not you want to invest time in perfecting your technique. If it's a quick jolt of adrenaline you're after, then a lack of familiarity with the levels may end up causing more frustration than satisfaction. The events do breathe new life into these old courses, but even they grow old eventually, as you're forced to complete them in a set order.
The aforementioned online leaderboards are also disappointingly limited, as they only display the top ten scores, ignoring anything less. Further integration and online-specific events would have been a lot of fun, especially if head-to-head multiplayer were made possible. Perhaps we're being a little too greedy here, but only because there's so much untapped potential in this intriguing, unique concept.
Typically-speaking, games centered around a bold art style are praised more for their atmosphere and the experience rather than any particularly hardcore gameplay features, but Proun+ insists on being just a little bit different. A chaotic skyline of floating geometry and surrealist vistas set the scene for a blistering racer that takes patience and dedication to master, but provides some excellent high-octane thrills if you can keep up the momentum.
With a greater variety of stages and events, and further expansion to the online leaderboards, this could have been a real classic, but Proun+ is still definitely worth a look for anyone that doesn't mind retrying a course until they get it juuust right.