From Plastic Studios and Santa Monica Studio comes Bound, a clever platformer with a pleasing paper mache-like visual style. It’s not very long, maybe two hours at the most, but it’s definitely memorable. While the platforming itself is suspect, Bound’s story and level design make up for its faults.
The way the main character moves will immediately grab your attention. Moving like a ballet dancer, other times through tap and other dance styles, you gracefully move about the levels. You’ll walk or run with your arms out in a carefree fashion and you jump with a ballet leap, your legs spread far apart as if you’re gliding for a moment. When you shimmy across narrow alcoves, you hug the wall while tiptoeing across the platform. I was impressed by how many different styles blend together for movement that looks and feels fresh. Instead of sprinting with the same animation as walking, your character takes wider strides and your arms lower. I’d occasionally stand idle and watch the character practice different positions like raising her leg, positioning her arms and more.
The main form of defense is by holding R2 which prevents you from getting tangled between vines and other hazards, like flocks of black paper airplanes attempting to slow you down. It’s enjoyable to use this defensive maneuver because the character will do a mini ballet routine as a shield forms around her. Pirouettes, leg kicks and pauses before each move illustrate the creativity Plastic Studios used when designing this game. Complement the dance routines with a light piano in the background and it’s an effective means of creating a relaxing and beautiful combination.
I found the platforming to be hit or miss. There is little space between platforms or moving objects so I wound up falling and dying more than I would have preferred. Sprinting before a jump would often lead to missing the platform completely so you have to make precise jumps when traversing an obstacle. Tight jumps are not pleasant, but rather sloppy and inconsistent.
What I should praise though is the way in which you can go about levels. There will sometimes be two paths to get over an obstacle, whether it be taking the safer path by slowly walking along a beam or taking the riskier, aforementioned series of jumps from one platform to the next. Levels contain shortcuts that speed up the stage considerably and it’s up to you to find these detours. One level in particular had giant pink spheres that represent pearls and you could run along them like Super Mario Galaxy where they have their own gravity. It was a fun incentive to try new methods of exploring.
The game begins with a pregnant woman arriving at a beach house and she makes her way down to the beach. As you walk further along the sand, you sit down and start to examine a book she is holding. The game takes place within the pages of this book, and the best part is that you can play each of the six levels in any order. Completing these levels out of order is beneficial because you’ll start to lose fear of the black paper airplanes, a red substance that resembles fire and the vines that will hold you down. As you complete the levels and piece together the story, the woman rips out that respective page from her book.
Bound is about a family going through the difficulties of divorce. When you complete a level you explore a small area and literal pieces are formed together to create the setting, characters and the substance of the event. The scene will form with what looks like paper mache to illustrate the emotion and struggle among the characters.
You’ll become familiar with a little girl and her brother as you witness either the parents scolding one of them for something, or the parents themselves fighting. As you complete more levels, preferably in order, you’ll watch the story unfold and the impact on the two children, ending with the dad leaving. The story definitely resonated with me because I’ve seen divorce first hand with my parents. Though I was older than the children in this game, it was still difficult to accept. For my first playthrough I played the levels out of order and I was still able to effectively piece together the story. Playing in order might leave a greater impact, but the story will still be the same. I played a second time, in order, and I learned more about the family, as well as the symbolism inside the woman’s journal.
The emotional story is revealed at the end of each level and how much detail there is to each sequence depends on how many memory shards you collect throughout a level. These shards are spread throughout each level, and while some are more difficult to obtain than others, they’re key to getting the most out of the story. Since the collectibles unlocked more of the story, I was driven to collect as many shards as possible.
The game has speed running in mind. Once you complete bound you can unlock a mode that will track your time in each level, and it’s fun to see how quickly each level can be completed. Shortcuts and prior knowledge of the levels help in your quest to shave precious seconds off each run. Because the game can be completed in an hour, even less depending how good you are, runs can go by quickly depending on your route and technique.
We would like to thank Santa Monica Studio (Sony Interactive Entertainment) for providing us with a PS4 code for the game.
Bound is an enjoyable platformer that tells a memorable story with a cool visual style. The movement is fresh and you’ll appreciate the creativity used when traversing levels. If you’re looking for a game you can beat with relative ease in terms of difficulty and time, Bound is a great choice. We would like to thank Santa Monica Studio (Sony Interactive Entertainment) for providing us with PS4 a code for the game.