Skip to main content

The best new iOS game is about growing trees

The best new iOS game is about growing trees

/

Prune is a bonsai tree in your pocket

Share this story

When the iPhone was new and the idea of touchscreen controls was still novel, mobile gaming was a hotbed of creativity. New, completely original games came out so quickly that it was hard to keep up. Today the App Store is a far different place, dominated by me-too clones and free-to-play licensed games. But every so often, a game comes out that reminds you of those early, promised-filled years. They're rare — Alto's Adventure is arguably 2015's only such release so far — but you can add Prune to that short list. It's a simple interactive toy about trimming trees, but it's also the best mobile game I've played in quite a while.

The premise is straightforward: a tree starts growing out of the ground, and in order to help it reach its full height, you'll need to carefully trim branches. When those branches hit sunlight they'll sprout flowers, and you'll need to sprout a certain number to finish the level. Naturally, things slowly get more complex. You'll come across obstacles that the tree will need to grow around, and giant red spheres will threaten to poison your tree, forcing you to start over. Later levels introduce the concept of pollination, so that you'll be using flowers to grow even more trees. The more complicated stages will have you growing massive, wonderfully twisted trees that seem to defy nature.

The ramp up is gradual, and even though Prune can get challenging, it always feels supremely relaxing. Much of this has to do with the chill soundtrack and beautiful, ink wash painting-inspired art, but it's also the gameplay itself. The trees grow at a measured pace, so you never feel rushed, and the controls are dead simple: swipe to start a tree growing, and swipe the branches to slice them off. There's no punishment for failure, you just start over, which encourages experimentation. And if you take too long on a level the game will simply let you skip ahead and come back later.

Prune

For Joel McDonald, the game's designer, that laid-back gameplay is a direct result of his previous gig, spending the last seven years working on big-budget shooters at larger studios. "Don't get me wrong, I love shooters, and grew up on Quake," he explains. "But working on first-person shooters for so long is like only eating oatmeal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Oatmeal can be pretty darn tasty, but sometimes you just want some huevos rancheros, y'know? Prune is my huevos rancheros."

Prune has been in development for around a year and a half, and during that time McDonald toyed with all kinds of ideas to flesh out the experience. There was a two-player option at one point and a mode that let you play endlessly, with no ultimate goal in mind. But the final product is much simpler, with just one mode and a number of different levels to play through. "It took me awhile to realize that I needed to cut away all that other stuff and just focus on the heart and soul of the game, the expressiveness of cultivating and shaping trees," McDonald says.

Just like some of the earliest iPhone games, Prune is unlike anything I've played before, an original and strange game that's both soothing and absorbing. It's the kind of experience I want to pull out to show my friends instead of a game to kill a few minutes while I'm in riding the subway. You can check it out now on iOS for $3.99.


Verge Vault: The best iPhone games (2014)

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 47 minutes ago Not just you

E
External Link
Emma Roth47 minutes ago
We might not get another Apple event this year.

While Apple was initially expected to hold an event to launch its rumored M2-equipped Macs and iPads in October, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicts Apple will announce its new devices in a series of press releases, website updates, and media briefings instead.

I know that it probably takes a lot of work to put these polished events together, but if Apple does pass on it this year, I will kind of miss vibing to the livestream’s music and seeing all the new products get presented.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.


A
The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.


J
Twitter
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.


A
External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.


A
External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.