Producer: Joel McDonald LLC
Price: $5.49 + tax
Prune was developed by Joel McDonald LLC for iOS only but offers both an iPhone and iPad version of the app. It has been advertised as a game featuring minimalistic art and calming music for a relaxing game experience. Prune has won multiple awards including both Apple and TIME Magazine Game of the Year in 2015. Overall, this app focuses on providing a simple interactive game experience: the user grows a tree and must prune the branches back to help the tree avoid obstacles and reach the sunlight. Each level is quite short, though they do become progressively more challenging as you advance through the game.
- Simple, visual instructions and limited gestures required for use (single finger swipe);
- Difficulty increases at a consistent, slow rate which decreases risk of frustration for user;
- Uses a musical soundscape rather than a repetitive loop, creating a soothing sensory experience;
- Level resets automatically if failed using a smooth transition, allowing the user to make multiple attempts without interruptions to gameplay and avoids ‘level failed’ screens which can discourage use.
- Not possible to make settings modifications to accommodate for differing ability levels;
- Minimal user prompts or hints when stuck on a particular level, relies on trial-and-error learning;
- Gameplay is over a grey-scale background making this app a less ideal choice for individuals with visual impairments.
Ease of Use: Grab & Go ★★★★★
Adaptability: Wide Variety of Settings Available ★☆☆☆☆
Accessibility: Suitable For Most Users ★★★☆☆
Cost vs. Value: Worthwhile Expense ★★★★☆
Overall Rating: ★★★★☆
Prune differs from other sensory apps as it was designed primarily as a game, not as a self-regulatory tool. Though this has significantly limited the adaptive flexibility of this app to only those modifications possible using built-in iPad accessibility features or external supports, it has also created a consistent, predictable digital environment allowing for a multi-sensory immersive user experience. Regardless of the initial intention for this app, it is extremely well-suited for use as an independent self-regulatory tool particularly for individuals who experience anxiety.
When supporting individuals with developmental disabilities, anxiety management is a common challenge frontline workers find themselves navigating for the individuals they support. Every individual is different in how they may experience symptoms of anxiety and there is an equal level of variance in factors which may trigger these symptoms. There are many apps available specifically geared towards anxiety management; however, Prune has emerged as a unique tool within that category.
Unlike many self-regulatory apps, Prune does not guide users through breathing routines or self-initiated exercises, but rather engages the user through the simple act of playing the game. Each level is goal-oriented to encourage the user to refocus their attention on a single task. The musical soundscape is similar to what is used on many sound machines specifically designed for self-regulation through sensory stimulation, and it can easily be turned off if it is found to be more triggering than calming. The slow, consistent speed of each level and natural flow from one level to the next encourages reduced motor speed and mindful interactions. By slowing down one sensory system, other systems tend to naturally follow and this can potentially return breathing and heartrates, which often increase when an individual is experiencing anxiety, closer to their personal baseline level they may experience when calm.
It is important to note that every individual is different and anxiety management is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Overall, Prune is a quality app that shows significant potential as a self-regulatory tool. Though it is slightly more expensive than other apps in this category, it has a unique approach and solid platform which gives that added value. It may not be the best choice for all individuals, particularly those who require significant adaptive modifications or have fine-motor impairments; however, it is a worthwhile app to explore and at the very least provides an enjoyable gaming experience.