Bound is an experience that hit me in a couple of stages. The first was an overwhelming feeling that the game was built with an over thought and pretentious attitude and that they spent too much time trying to make it abstract. This feeling did not last for more than a few stages when it was replaced by the second stage where everything starts to fall into place and you will quickly realise it is a disjointed game about a disjointed life that tells a beautifully sad story.
The game presents itself as a woman who is revisiting memories through pictures drawn in a book. These images take you through stages of her life as told by a ballerina’s actions amidst a world consisting of basic shapes and paths above a grey chunky sea. The movements of the ballerina are smooth and elegant, which is in stark contrast to the chunky jagged surroundings. She moves through the world with some very simple platforming and the occasional basic puzzle as she tells a story about her relationship with her mother and an unknown enemy.
After each of these stages you glide around a snapshot of her life, which the more you glide around the room the more of the image emerges from the shards. The image portrays significant moments in the life of the pregnant woman showing a broken and disjointed home. The more you play the more the game presents the reason for her being on the beach and why her drawings existed in the first place.
I can honestly say the first half hour of playing I was completely wrong about the game. The longer I played the more I wanted to know and understand the story which in turn lead to me noticing and feeling more from the game. Bound really epitomizes what is considered the experience end of the gaming spectrum. Puzzles and platforming are very simple, but requires just enough input to keep you engaged in the story. It is only a few hours long if you take your time and take in as much as you can and the story can be played in multiple orders which actually did affect the impact of some of the sequences on me as I was playing.
On top of the platforming is some of the abstract smaller shards that do attack the ballerina, but are held at bay by dancing. This sounds strange and it seemed it at first when I played but with the realisation that you are playing her drawings this quickly dispels any oddity of playing as a ballerina being attacked by shapes and really just helped the games impact. It is not too often that I would say a game is a thinker, in that some well written games will have a moment you may think about and disagree with, or may spate other views, but Bound really resonated with me and the more I think about it, the more I gain from it.
The colour pallet really sticks out too. The background is generally very dull, but the characters are all built from solid bright colours which stands out sharply on the screen. This is surrounded by a beautifully subtle soft soundtrack that ties the experience together.
After finishing the game I recommend playing a second play through in a different order, but on top of that is the option to speed run Levels. I tried a couple but found no value in it as I personally felt that the Levels on their own and being rushed missed that soul I felt in the full game. It is a good option though for people who post-game want to try something different.
Bound is an experience that I approached in the wrong way, I did not know what to expect but did not imagine what was presented. A beautifully dark story with minimal gameplay, a strange art style, that all over time complement each other as the story pulls itself together with an ending that made the whole experience feel worthwhile.
Released: August 2016
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Developer: SIE Santa Monica Studio, Plastic Games
Publisher: SIE Santa Monica Studio