Bound will blow your mind then leave you wanting.
Bound could have been so much more. This is a game, like Abzu, that is best enjoyed with no expectations or preconceived notions. That’s how I went in: fresh off of a media blackout with absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. All I knew is that the game looked gorgeous, and that it had some really pretty musical accompaniment. I’m always eager to support the smaller studios, especially if they seem to offer something unique and meaningful.
Bound does offer a compelling and heartbreaking story, but it does so with clumsy pacing and no regard for closure. I don’t want to spoil anything in this review, suffice to say that there are many of you who will connect to the main theme and narrative of this game in a powerful way. It deals with a an issue that has left many feeling vulnerable and broken at times, and it would have been nice if Plastic Studios and Santa Monica Studio could have resolved the story as powerfully as they built it up.
It wasn’t until the closing hour that I realized just what was happening, and what everything represented. Then the story ends all too abruptly. It felt very lazy to me, like the team had finished up all of the main gameplay segments of the game and wanted to wrap up the story as quickly as possible – and they certainly do. It’s a damn shame because the story could have been, and should have been, something so much more. It should have been every bit as beautiful as the visuals, which are gorgeous, by the way.
The protagonist whom you control, a graceful, other-worldly ballerina, dances beautifully through various dreamscapes. This is a world that you couldn’t imagine if you tried. It’s colorful and full of living, breathing geometry. Bound is, if nothing else, an audiovisual wonder. Everything runs so smoothly on the PS4 and it speaks volumes of the talented individuals who made this world and this character come to fruition. Maria Udod, the modern dance performer who brought our ballerina to life, deserves special recognition. Her movements are captivating, and you can consider the purchasing price of this game an admission fee to one of the most surreal performances of your lifetime.
That is, when you’re not falling off of platforms. The actual gameplay in Bound, the platforming, is pretty awful. It’s frustrating and imprecise, which is ironic because it’s due to the beautiful nature of our protagonist’s movements. The ballerina jumps and moves with such freedom and grace, and that’s beautiful to watch, but it’s not predictable. When you jump it’s impossible to gauge your forward momentum or determine where you’ll land.
The platforming segments also felt a bit arbitrary, like they were just thrown in so that they could call this a video game. They really disturb the flow of an otherwise gorgeous experience, and I found myself wishing that Plastic and Santa Monica would have made this more of an automated experience; something closer to a walking simulator with quick-time events. I never thought I’d utter a sentence like that, but there you have it.
To me, it feels like Bound started its life as an incredible tech demo. It’s like the team had these jaw-dropping visuals and beautiful motion-captured movements and then they said, “Okay, now how can we shove a game and narrative into this?” The platforming challenges and narrative felt half-baked, and it’s doubly frustrating because throughout the entire game you can feel just how special this game could have been. You need to see it, but you don’t need to pay full price to play it right away. It’s a brilliant concept and gorgeous work of art that, in the end, is bound by its shortcomings.
Below you’ll find my livestream of Bound in two parts. Don’t watch it if you plan on experience this game for yourself.[fvplayer src=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7urVC7Drnhc” width=”560″ height=”315″] [fvplayer src=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wew6mQbEqtQ” width=”560″ height=”315″]