Review

Bound Review

  • First Released Aug 16, 2016
    released
  • PS4

Take a bow--the night is over.

The first impression you get of Bound is that of a platforming video game that uses interpretive dance as a foundation for all movement. It's only after the credits roll that you realize the reverse is true: Bound is an interactive, interpretive dance about a video game.

Bound speaks the language of games, but it’s only vaguely interested in fluency. It reproduces the basic elements in grand, abstract, poetic flourishes. Even the simple act of pressing the jump button creates a symphony of balletic movements from our brave heroine. Bound is less focused on presenting a series of challenges than it is in letting players participate in an interactive modern-dance performance.

The story of this particular libretto? A princess is tasked by her mother, the queen, to slay a giant monster that threatens to corrupt and destroy their kingdom. You must traverse the massive labyrinth that is their kingdom, tracking the beast at every turn until you get close enough to use your powers to undo its influence.

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Bound's gameplay is rudimentary, consisting primarily of running, jumping across moving platforms, and climbing ladders. Most of what passes for challenge has to do with navigating the many alternate routes through the labyrinth, sussing out what's actually going to get you down to a lower level safely, what's an actual shortcut, and what may result in plunging to your doom.

But like Journey before it, the devil is in the details. Each stage is a cubist marvel, where every single element feels like it's forged from living, shattered stained glass. The game works wonders with this aesthetic, going from alien, gravity-defying architecture stretching into the stratosphere to vast, beautiful seas that roll out in waves for miles.

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Repetitive as these actions can sometimes be, the game still deserves praise for creating a protagonist who neither looks nor moves like any other video game character: a lithe, masked hero whose smallest motion is an act of grace.

Then there's the princess herself--our heroic dancer who must travel the labyrinth. There isn't much to her from a mechanical standpoint. She can run and jump, and in lieu of an attack, she can perform an elaborate dance that allows her to traipse through dangerous environments unscathed. It's a wonderful idea, albeit somewhat undercooked. You can put some variations on the dance with simple button combinations, but doing so doesn't serve a meaningful purpose. Repetitive as these actions can sometimes be, the game still deserves praise for creating a protagonist who neither looks nor moves like any other video game character: a lithe, masked hero whose smallest motion is an act of grace.

Like all interpretive dance, this is all a metaphor for something much more cerebral, presented through the frame of scenes set in the real world--adding the right amount of context to make parsing your journey insightful and rewarding. The ultimate meaning of Bound's tale relies on your own perspective, but there's a subtle-yet-undeniable emotional weight from beginning to end. Bound is a game that displays immense amounts of contemplation and ambition in every aspect except gameplay.

And yet, to decry it for its overly simplistic mechanics is to ultimately miss the forest for the trees. Bound is digital art installation. It's only in the game's final moments, when you're able to view the full breadth of the work, that it's clear this is a work of art that could not be accomplished in any other medium but this one.

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The Good

  • Beautiful, abstract art style
  • Impressive animations
  • Elegant narrative

The Bad

  • Dancing needs more variety and purpose
  • Uninspired platforming

About the Author

Justin Clark completed Bound in about three hours. He fully intends to play the game again when the PSVR patch hits and will spend his days until then hoarding Dramamine.
24 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Chippiez

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So a game that is repetitive and boring gets a 7 because , "oooh, a new feminine, dancing protagonist"?

Meteor2016!

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Nev3rtime

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Edited By Nev3rtime

It's just seems so topsy-turvy that when you see a really visually striking and interesting looking game your first thought is always 'indie'.

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Gelugon_baat

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I was watching a video and was mostly entertained by the polygon-edgy art direction until the player brought up the hella off-putting options menu. The contrast is jarring.

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odolwa99

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Edited By odolwa99

The flourish she does after falling to her death and respawning kind of reminds me of those LolCat vids where the cat face plants after missing a jump and tries to look cool afterwards by quickly cleaning itself and walking away all fancy.

3 • 
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Xristophoros

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Edited By Xristophoros

from an art direction standpoint, this one of the most visually striking games of the year. up there with abzu and inside. amazing how accomplished these indie studios are... they are outdoing AAA game developers.

as for the gameplay, it looks a bit simplistic, but it is great that sony is reaching out to demographics who otherwise would be too intimidated to play games. this is something that would be fairly easy to get into, even without much gaming experience.

5 • 
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mylesblasonato

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@Xristophoros: Inside looks like shit just like Limbo.

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Pl3xus

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I like playing the game while listening to Sia's "Chandelier". Or any other Sia song for that matter.?

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Zombie8814

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Can't watch the video. Way too choppy. I guess I'll have to wait till gamespot gets around to posting it on their youtube channel.

3 • 
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VANGUARD003

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Developed by a ballerina? Lol. I'm a dancer myself, but still kinda strange/amusing ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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nayce54

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I loved playing as the pregnant woman!

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jinzo9988

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Edited By jinzo9988

They forgot to actually make a good game. This feels like an art project at its core and at the end of its development they felt like they had to game-ify what they had to justify the fact that they chose a video game to project their art project through.

I really don't want to crap on the game too badly but a walking simulator for example shows no shame in being what it is... and that's fine. It's tough to screw up walking, and you can dazzle people with visual effects and a good story at the same time. When you start adding gameplay elements however, weak gameplay can actively detract from the package despite how it looks or the story it's trying to tell. I'm not sure if I'm making sense, but had they pared this down into just being a walking simulator, it would've been better received.

4 • 
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Fia1

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Edited By Fia1

i think all these overly stylized games are becoming a big fashion now... i really don't like them much... i think journey was nice, but abzu was a real snorefest...

3 • 
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SaturatedButter

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Edited By SaturatedButter

"take a bow" is just another way of saying "bend over."

7 • 
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dmblum1799

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dmblum1799  Online

@saturatedbutter:

Stay classy.

4 • 
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deactivated-5ebc942967df5

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Yet another post-Journey game that completely misses the point.

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breathnac

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@Prats1993: Plastic has been developing these weird games since way before journey mate

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deactivated-5ebc942967df5

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@breathnac: Yet none of their previous games has so closely resembled Journey in structure and tone to the point of pastiche. Like Abzu, it's a failed experiment in minimalist abstraction that's all style over substance.

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RogerioFM

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What an odd game.

2 • 
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stevo302

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This game is a mess technically.

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megakick

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Why does this game get 7 and games that try to do more receive same score or lower?

2 • 
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RogerioFM

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@megakick: Probably because they tried and failed.

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mephisto1138

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Edited By mephisto1138

This game is gorgeous but I have the same issue with it that I have with Abzu, its just going from point a to point b in every area. Granted, every game and every story ever is about getting from point A to point B in one form or another, but there should be some impactful experiences along the way. Abzu has probably even less variety than Bound and also has the unfortunate position of basically being an underwater remake of its predessor, Journey, only minus the grandiose epic... journey. Abzu is basically repeating 4 or 5 areas with like 2 alternative interludes.

Bound has very much the same problem. While its easily one of the most beautiful games I've ever played, the movement could have been more intricate with flowing chain combos that net you something. Either faster or special movements across terrain or just for simple enjoyment. There could have been more interplay with these movements and the sound design of the game, so you're creating a score along with your dancing. The gravity defying areas and constantly shifting environments could have been used to provide puzzles that relate to the games themes of over coming fears.

Essentially, it feels like a very amazing tech demo for a much more impressive, yet to be finished game. Which is kind of a bummer. I threw my $15 at Abzu and Bound because I'd rather encourage more artistry than the same old same old, but I'd still like a GAME at the end of the day and a fully fleshed out experience.

2 • 
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mpl911

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@mephisto1138: You're right. This game looks beautiful and the way the protagonist flows is superbly done. BUT there has to be something to DO apart from walking forward and occasionally jumping. I hadn't heard of Bound prior to yesterday but it's not something I'll ever consider buying.

Credit to the dev team for trying something new and pretty but, like Journey and, as you mentioned, Abzu, they just aren't games I'd ever download even if they were free with Games with Gold. Alright - I would if they were free, but, like those Telltale games, I'm pretty sure I'd get bored of them after about 15 minutes. They just wouldn't hold my interest longer than that, there's not enough in them.

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Bound

First Released Aug 16, 2016
released
  • PlayStation 4

Bound is a 3D platformer designed for people with the desire to concentrate on the narrative side of games and experience a mature story.

7
Good

Average Rating

14 Rating(s)

5.7
Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
Everyone 10+
Fantasy Violence