Bound Review - Dancing and Platforming, Family, Fragments, and Fragility
Bound, by Plastic Studios, is all about dance -- moving gracefully through an ever shifting land, about gliding over ribbons, and creating protective, safe, ribbons. Bound is about creating poetry through movement, to conquer all your deepest fears with dance.
It plays like a standard platformer, but the way you move, the way you flow, the way you stand, the way the story unfolds, the way the game self constructs, the imagery, and almost everything about Bound is unique. It doesn't reinvent anything, but it thinks about the standard ideas of movement, combat, and story and does something different with them.
Even with the imprecise movement, especially when trying to be slow, but the story is moving, the soundtrack is amazing, the art style is beautiful, the animations are smooth and elegant, and the twist at the end is both surprising and expected.
You play as the ever graceful Princess, a contemporary ballet dancer -- or at the very least she has been inspired from classical dance. Your mother, the queen, instructs you to remove a monster from the land, but to do that you must overcome your fears. These fears manifest themselves in the world as tendril-like things, something reminiscent of fire, and barriers which must be passed through but cannot be destroyed, among other fears.
You overcome all of these fears as you progress through the story, but you can play each level in any order. Within these levels are shortcuts, and there are super challenging paths that will skip the levels final cutscene. These cutscene skips shorten the level considerably, but to pull them off you need to master how the platforming works in Bound.
Which brings me to the purely mechanical aspects of the game -- and the worst parts of the game.
Due to the dancing, each movement you make, big or small, is graceful. Unfortunately, that also means they are often not very precise when moving slowly. There are times when a ladder leads up to a thin ledge. This ledge isn't a balance beam, so you have full control of your movement. When I climbed up the ladder, I was constantly falling off the other end of the ledge as the animation was causing me to take an extra step forward. This can be overcome by very slightly turning left or right, but it's very fiddly. If you turn back, you will just fall off the ledge on the side of the ladder. There is an option you can set to stop yourself from falling off edges, but it doesn't always work with lower ledges or ones with floors underneath them.
There isn't all that much to talk about with Bound, as the story is best experienced after knowing nothing about it (think games like Journey, or Abzu), there are 'mosaic moments' (pictured above) where you walk through a small area and it pieces itself together. They start off far less intact that what is shown in that screenshot.
Even with the imprecise movement, especially when trying to be slow, but the story is moving, the soundtrack is amazing, the art style is beautiful, the animations are smooth and elegant, and the twist at the end is both surprising and expected. There is a sudden moment where the Princess, her mother, and another character are very directly showing their intent and emotions, where the story is almost exclusively shown through imagery and sound. It makes for a very powerful ending, to a very powerful game.
Bound is easily a must have for any fans of That Game Company games (Journey, Flower, Flow), or similar games like Abzu, The Beginner's Guide, or The Stanley Parable. Grab it now on the PS Store!
If the words above didn't convince you, the images below should! (click to get a bigger version)
Copy provided by developers, Plastic Studios, reviewed on PS4.