Games like Bound which look unique and bring their own art style are the reasons why games exist, isn’t it?
It was so exciting seeing the first gameplay videos of Bound. Developer Plastic’s quirky and visually exciting title was being published by Sony, with help offered by the company’s Santa Monica Studio. How could you not trust these guys?
The short story of the game is drenched in metaphors. You control a pregnant woman walking on the beach for a few moments before jumping into her mind, recalling memories in the fantasy world sketched out in her small notebook. It’s here in this dream world where all the action takes place, guiding the princess and following her mother’s instructions to avoid a large, destructive monster. We do all of this through the power of dance, using swift movements from the world of both ballet and more contemporary dance styles.
Bound is one of the most artistic and imaginative games I’ve ever come across. It can sometimes be easier for a game developer to add objectives and features without asking why and what purpose this serves. But it’s been a good year for more thoughtful games which focus on doing less, with examples such as the Witness and That Dragon, Cancer. Bound happens to find itself in very comfortable company.
Occasionally, a game comes along that looks so beautiful and refreshing, I immediately add it to my favourites collection 30 seconds or so after getting past the menu. And these are usually titles that are unique in what they do, such as Ico, Rez, Antichamber and Journey. The common thread between these examples is how they open our minds and transform us to living, breathing worlds. Bound’s biggest achievement is that it is able to do this through pure style.
Manoeuvring past obstacles isn’t always as satisfying as the synaesthesia-inspired delights in Rez. Perhaps this is the source of my frustration, the fact it took me longer than half a minute to realise its genius compared to other titles that have a unique look and feel. For example, there are moments such as the end of each segment where you’re being carried at high speed on fabric-like ramps, similar to those found in Journey, which left me in a genuine state of awe and admiration.
This contrasts with other moments of fear I experienced, not knowing what exactly was happening on the screen as the environment kept shifting into different states. That’s the whole purpose of this medium: to experience and interact with a whole new reality that’s unique and — yes — boundless.
During my first playthrough, I wondered whether the game was focussing too much on trying to draw an emotional response from me and less on its gameplay mechanics, when instead we can fall in love with a game precisely because of well it plays regardless of what the story is ever about. (See: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.)
Nonetheless, the game has succeeded by leaving me wanting more and to revisit its colourful, rippling world. It’s a vibrant, digital art exhibition that you can play, soaking in the sights, sounds and emotions. Bound is a new member of my gaming library favourites.