The Summer of the Indie game continues strong with Santa Monica Studio's latest installment, ‘Bound'. Just like with my previous favorite, ‘Abzû', this game is strongly reminiscent of the hit 2012 game, ‘Journey'. But does it have what it takes to break away from this popular gameplay model and stand alone as its own entity?
The game follows the adventures of The Princess, who is a little dancer with ribbons tied to her wrists. She is tasked with assisting The Queen with saving the kingdom from a monster who is trying to destroy it. The games story is not particularly deep, but it is symbolic and the developers did a great job of pacing it out in this game. At no point in my playthrough did I feel like it was dragging while I raced from point A to point B. It's also not a story that requires a lot of brain power to comprehend what's going on. After about level 2, I successfully called what was actually supposed to be represented. Sure it created a sense of pride when what I predicted came to fruition in the end, but it would have been nice to have a little bit more depth to the actual story.
Despite the shallow story, the visuals are stunning. Everything that made ‘Abzû' and ‘Journey' peace-evoking in their settings, is sharp and harsh in this game. The fluidity of your Princess' movements is perfectly counteracted by the harsh geometric angles of her surroundings. The most beautiful moments were the times where The Princess is getting bombarded with little paper airplanes in vivid colors against and she has to block them by moving in a series of piqué turns across the level. This causes an explosion of color to manifest itself across your screen, and the combination of the fluid soft movements again sharp little paper airplanes will surely bring a smile to your face.
Not only did the developers successfully play with various angles to create a unique visual experience, they also play with the actual dimensions of the game environment. I liked this, it kept the game from being yet another ‘Journey' 2.0, and instead created more of a Super Mario 64 throwback. At more than one occasion, I had to re-center myself mentally because my little Princess was upside down, or on the left wall moving either towards the ceiling or floor down. The developers took huge inspiration from various M. C. Escher infinite staircase paintings when developing several of the areas that you play through. This game has been confirmed to be released on the PlayStation VR, and I can't wait to see how moments such as this translate onto that system.
The music of this game is fitting. It's a combination of a hauntingly beautiful piano melody mixed with 80's synth. It sounds odd, but the effect is reminiscent of an old music box. Considering the fact that you're twirling around on various puzzles on a Princess, the effect is enjoyable. During the actual gameplay, the music is a nice addition to everything else that is going on around your character. You want to make your character dance, yes that is an option, to the music simply because it's so cool. However, trying to remember the moments of the soundtrack that really stood out, I'm at a loss. Due to the fact that the music is so similar in its style for each level, it tends to just blend into one another. It makes it difficult to pinpoint why exactly I enjoyed what I was hearing. It's just not memorable, even though it was fun to listen to during the actual game. Audio is a huge component of the gaming experience if it's not memorable it does potentially create a less than memorable experience for a game.
All in all, this is another fun little indie game that has been released this summer and I think it really cements the fact that the smaller game development companies totally owned the games released. ‘Bound' very much feels like the last huzzah of the summer game releases before we get our fall lineup. It's a very bittersweet game, and I feel like it embraces the bittersweet feeling of saying goodbye to Summer 2016. This game gets a score of 7.5. Its ho-hum storyline is easily counteracted by the originality of its puzzle execution, but it's just too similar in the type of visual play to another game we saw release just a few weeks ago without even having the same sort of memorable soundtrack. Even when this game releases on the PlayStation VR, this game will still receive the same score. I foresee the only change between traditional console and VR console, for this game, being an added dynamic to the already awesome puzzle set up. It will be fun, and will be something to definitely check out, but it won't make up for the portions of the game that are lacking.
What were your favorite moments of ‘Bound'? Do you agree with our score? How do you think this game will play out when it releases on PlayStation VR? Let us know in the comments below!