Platform PlayStation 4 Genre 3D Platformer
Developers Plastic Studios/Santa Monica Studios Publisher Santa Monica Studios
Bound is an elegant piece of modern art that captures the beauty of movement, while tackling a profoundly emotional story. While Bound doesn’t revolutionise the 3D platformer, its ability to produce a personal story with such beauty makes this memorable adventure worth experiencing.
Bound is not an easy game to explain, even watching Bound in motion with no context can be a confusing proposition. Players take control of a young unnamed princess within a crazy alternate world, and are tasked to stop a monster that is terrorising the kingdom. Bound’s story runs a lot deeper, but it is an experience that is best encountered without any preconception to the story that will unfold. With that being said, Bound relies on metaphoric imagery and representation of events to tell its true tale. Once this emotional narrative is finally revealed everything becomes a lot clearer, adding context to the insane moments and weird events of each stage. I found myself restarting my adventure as soon as the credits rolled to re-experience this heartfelt adventure with the newly added context at my disposal; which further emphasised the powerful and elegant beauty that developer Plastic Studios has produced.
Bound’s unnamed protagonist is like none I have seen before, as her entire library of movement is one of a professional ballet dancer. This unique method of traversal adds a distinct quality that no other game has ever produced. The princess’s movements are elegantly translated and it doesn’t take long before players are bounding, leaping and spinning like a professional. Bound’s unique movements are like an interpretive dance and it allows for the emotions of the character to become clear without a single piece of spoken English ever used. The princess will cower in fear when the monster roars, or will glide away in triumph after she has conquered her fear. Within the context of Bound’s deep story, the use of dance becomes an escapism for the character and it allows for such a grand emotional palette to be portrayed through such elegant movements.
Each and every single stage in Bound tells its own story that is interconnected with the overarching narrative. Completing each stage will see our main character face off against a different fear and essentially make this hazard obsolete. As players can choose to play any stage in any order, hazards that may have been an issue on your first playthrough may now be non-existent. While this is an interesting idea, the layout of each level is essentially identical, despite the removal of certain hazards. Once the story is completed a Speed Run mode is then unlocked with online leaderboards, incentivising players to re-experience each stage and utilise the altered hazards to set the fastest times. While Bound is essentially linear there are deviations within each stage that can be found to improve your time of each run, but due to the lack of variety each level is almost identical to the last.
While the incentive of replayability may interest some, Bound’s platforming aspects are essentially the weakest part of the overall package. There is no real punishment for failure, as players will respawn instantly right where their accident occurred. While the instant respawns upon failure is certainly convenient Bound never really produces any challenging platforming segments. Most jumps are very basic and even hidden areas can be accessed fairly easily. The most challenging aspect of Bound’s platforming comes in the form of the obnoxious camera. The camera constantly fought against me when I was moving it to get a better look at the path I needed to see, and in some cases locking itself into place, masking the area in question. The camera also auto corrects almost every time you enter a new area, which made me lose track of my location in the world all too often.
Bound also has a very distinct visual style, from the few characters you actually meet, to the world itself. The princess looks like a mixture of a human lifeform with alien features, which is certainly different from the images one would associate with a princess. Bound’s unique visual style is best showcased by the living and breathing world players will explore. Bound utilises a huge variety of geometry to create a world completely constructed out of unique shapes, while the ever-moving world below constantly ebbs and flows like a vicious ocean. Bound looks at its most gorgeous upon the conclusion of each level, as the princess glides off on an extended ribbon revisiting the entire level along the way. These moments were visually incredible as you see the hazards around you disintegrate and world breath and fluctuate as you rapidly glide to the stages conclusion. Bound’s brilliant use of geometric shapes and gorgeous colour palette make the entire adventure visually compelling.
Bound’s distinct style doesn’t end visually, as the musical score also produces a broad spectrum of unique sounds. Bound’s musical score ranges from beautiful electronica sounds that emphasis the spectacular style and wonderment of the world, to eerie and unsettling noises that utilise some horror-esque piano keys. Combining the princess’s graceful movements with the range of musical sounds, Plastic Studios is able to relay a profound emotional message to the player without utilising the spoken word.
Bound’s complexity was completely unexpected and I couldn’t be happier that it was. Bound produced something very special and it combines its most precious aspects together to form an incredible adventure.
While the platforming aspects themselves don’t offer much challenge (aside from an annoying camera), this three-hour adventure is something that will stick with you for days and weeks after the credits finally roll.
A deep and powerful narrative.
Use of movement to portray emotions.
Distinctly beautiful visuals and musical score.