Download Games Roundup

Dead! Kirby! Hero! Laser! Proun!

Version tested

It's the nearing the middle of summer, there are no games out, there's no football on. What the hell are you going to do? Sample the latest in the world of downloadable games, that's what.

On an average week, you're usually weighing up whether to bother throwing a few pennies at the latest indie suggestion or a few more quid at something a little more meaty. You can definitely do that this week, too, with the likes of Half Minute Hero and Block the Laser standing on parade with their hands out.

But this week's most interesting title, Proun, doesn't expect you to pay anything. Instead, you can just pay what you want, in a move more readily associated with bands like Radiohead - but Joost van Dongen doesn't have a lengthy career and the world's press watching his every move. He just has an exceptionally pretty racing game, a truckload of talent and the hope that people like you will spread the word. Maybe he'll even make some money out of his work.

On that note: Games!

Proun

You might have endured the 'are games art?' discussion once or twice. I try to avoid it unless I'm feeling particularly combative (usually during the fourth Guinness), but now then it's fun for sport.

But when you're dealing with indie labour-of-love Proun, it literally is art. Or, more specifically, a game wrapped around art.

As the developer Joost van Dongen explains at length, Proun isn't trying to be the best racing game, or make as much money as possible, it exists purely because of a passion for the experimental art of the early 20th century.

proun

Sheer art attack.

It's a noble aim, sure, but the fact that it also happens to be extremely engaging while being one of the most visually arresting games you'll ever play is good fortune for all of us - especially as Dongen has adopted a Pay What You Want model.

There's a separate discussion to be had about the merits of that elsewhere, but purely in terms of what Proun is like to play, it's a wonderful collision of breathtaking artistic flair and simple racing mechanics.

Each 'race' takes place on a thin cable that winds around in a loop in three-dimensional space. Attached to it is, essentially, a sequence of abstract obstacles that you need to dodge in order to keep your speed up. Since there is no up or down, you can rotate your spherical craft around the cable.

As a spectacle, the way these obstacles sweep past you in formation as you slip past them is incredibly alluring. Dongen weaves together the rippling flow of the visuals so effectively that, the better you get at the game, the more it feels like you're not even playing it anymore.

Your role in the proceedings is as a visual conductor, commanding your own hypnosis, sucked into a maelstrom of motion quite unlike anything you've ever experienced.

Within all this, you're compelled to learn a route through the chaos and get 'better', if only to keep the flow fast and to reap the rewards of faster play. With success come even faster skill levels, and the chance to really prove your ability to keep pace, but well before then, Proun's work is done.

Scores feel entirely inadequate when it comes to rating a project like this, but if you feel like rewarding one man's six-year-long quest for creativity this week, Joost van Dongen's work truly deserves it.

9/10

Offbeat rail racer Proun footage

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