Ever played Super Mario 64 with a broken controller and thought – the only thing missing here is the fat plumber doing the odd pirouette with some ribbons? I know I haven’t, but anyway… Enter Bound, a game that spans two worlds and stories: one where you’re a dancing Princess sent on a quest by your mother to stop a monster and another where you’re a pregnant lady on a beach who’s moving ever so slowly towards a nearby house.

Obviously one of those stories sounds more enticing as a game than the other but unfortunately, neither side of the narrative or gameplay is done particularly well and it all results in another small scale disappointment.

As is the case with so many games now your main take away from Bound will probably be that it’s pretty. However, I would argue that in terms of design, its world is abstract to the point where there doesn’t appear to be any developed thought or clever narrative cohesion between the games two ongoing stories.

This wouldn’t be such an issue if it wasn’t so reliant on its environmental storytelling to tell its tale and more importantly make us care. I too often felt that the convulsing nature of the abstract environments was simply a lazy shorthand for the fragmented memories caged within our characters mind. It was just too obvious and on the nose from a design perspective for me.

 

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Sadly, I find it hard to appreciate a world that looks like it was assembled by throwing random twitchy assets into a particularly violent mosh pit. As I said, I don’t doubt that you’ll find it occasionally pretty but to my mind, it’s a mostly vapid space to explore and exist within. Then again, maybe that’s the point.

In its worst moments, it reminded me of some awful 90’s platformer where instead of some oddly humanoid animal you play as a high mileage space ballerina who can remember all of about four dance moves.

As a result of all this, Bound never truly achieves the emotional heights that it so clearly aspires to. It’s a relatively flat tale of a woman coming to terms with her past that is neither compelling or well-presented enough for the player to become emotionally invested in by the time the credits roll.

At the end of each level, you’ll be treated to an on rails carpet ride around the area that you just explored. Perhaps if I had enjoyed the world design more these segments would have served to highlight just how much better the game is when you’re not in control but as I said, hands on or off – I can’t say my experience was overly positive and so it made little difference to me.

 

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Movement is initially impressive until you realise that you actually have to play a game using this character- platforming challenges and all. Yes, the animation is endearing and technically praiseworthy but there’s an obvious disconnect between the player characters ability to platform with finesse and their prowess as a dancer as they go from pirouetting perfectly to awkwardly flinging themselves off a bridge with all the grace of a heavy sack of shit.

It was the jumping that I found to be especially irksome as it never once felt as smooth or reliable as it really ought to be in a current gen platformer. Despite the unique style of movement seemingly being the entire point of the experience, I would suggest that the gameplay suffers as a result of the over animation of the player character. It’s just too unresponsive and poorly conceived to be fun.

In its worst moments, it reminded me of some awful 90’s platformer where instead of some oddly humanoid animal you play as a high mileage space ballerina who can remember all of about four dance moves.

Actually, scratch what I said earlier, the game playing itself sounds like a pretty good idea after the fact. Control issues certainly aren’t helped by the camera which is about as useful as a broken leg in a 100-metre sprint. At some points, it’ll snap to a predetermined angle for no apparent reason before eventually allowing you to wrestle back control. Such practice is befitting of a title that makes you feel like you’re only in control because the game needs to feel more ‘gamey’.

 

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I still can’t decide if I’m to be relieved about the lack of penalty on falling to your death as a harsher checkpoint system would only have led to the feeling of repetition setting in quicker and stronger.

It’s also worth noting that the speedrun mode unlocked upon completion is an odd inclusion seeing as the game isn’t tight or re-playable enough to make repeat runs enjoyable or worthwhile.

At the end of the day, it’s just a somewhat annoying game in the sense that it’s too often a chore to play for any extended period of time and so ultimately I can’t say that I accrued much enjoyment from the brief few hours that I spent with it.

There is a way of making this type of game work for people like me *cough* Inside and Journey *cough* but sadly Bound more than misses the mark. I’d throw this in with the likes of Unravel and ABZÛ as an indie game with precious little to fuss over besides the visuals. Then again, perhaps I’m being ignorant of the artistry on show as I scoff at this in the same way that I have with many other similar titles that folk appear to get something out of.

A real shame then that for me it’s turned out to be more Cha Cha Slide than Swan Lake.

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