Bound review: So you think you can prance?
Bound is a platforming experience that's as beautiful as it is banal.
There was a fatal moment in Bound, this weird dance-platform-puzzler hybrid we're showing today, where I became a frustrated choreographer with myself. “No, game, I said 'step pause turn pause pivot step step' not 'step pause turn pause pivot step pause!' Oh, shudder!” What screwed up that particular routine? Let's jazz-hands that honour to bad camera and poor controls.
At its best, Bound offers intoxicating environments that are shifting canvases and fluid animations which turn standard platforming fare into fine performance art. As the alien-looking, nymph-like Princess of a kingdom besieged, you're tasked by your Queen to use the power of dance to turn your oppressors away. We'd have used good old fashioned violence – but sure, let's go with the customs of your people.
What follows is a platforming experience that is as beautiful as it is banal. The world of Bound is in a constant state of flux, and palettes radically change from moment to moment as everything reconfigures around you as you doggedly progress in a linear fashion. The manual camera frequently swaps to automatic in order to whip about you in an artistic manner that makes for very stylish angles and awful distance judgement for your fancy leaps. Basically, this is a great game to watch, not to play.
A rhesus monkey could complete it, too. The balancing acts you make on gymnastics beams and the death defying leaps are not in fact defying...well, anything. Plunging into the roiling polygons below spawns you right back where you flubbed it. Have another go, Lord of the Dance. Call us masochists, but that sort of leniency is disappointing, almost as much of a letdown as the moment you realise your suite of face-button moves are pretty much just for show. The various pirouettes and languid cartwheels are fanciness for fanciness sake.
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Instruction is minimal in Bound, and your movement through the world, while impressively extravagant, is molasses slow. In short order you'll find yourself flat-out ignoring the twizzling about bollocks in favour of mashing jump in order to achieve peak speed. Indeed the most difficult and technical task you'll undertake is knowing when to hold a button to conjure a protective barrier of gymnast’s ribbons to protect yourself from environmental hazards.
Clearly one could argue that this is not designed to be the “gamiest” game out there, rather it's the journey and emotions it invokes in the player that are paramount. That said, I must admit that even my black heart was moved by the vague tale woven. Without spoiling too much, the fanciful prancing is essentially the daydreaming of a heavily pregnant woman whom you are given limited control of in certain points of the adventure. Mid-mission moments unravel the woman's memories in the form of living puzzles, and your sympathies for the key people in this tale tend to shift as the revelations continue to flow. An extremely strong and emotive soundtrack sure helps to pluck the heartstrings, too.
Bound is an arthouse game that hopes to be mentioned in the same breath as Journey, Inside, or Limbo
Bound is an arthouse game that hopes to be mentioned in the same breath as Journey, Inside, or Limbo. However, this 2-hour journey to its end credits isn't nearly as memorable, moving, or thought-provoking as the aforementioned. In the end, its linearity, lack of gameplay diversity, and the low latency feel of your in-game actions all conspire to trip this tiny dancer up. Wait for it to become a PlayStation Plus freebie.
We reviewed Bound on PlayStation 4 with a copy provided by the publisher.