Bound Review - A Great Performer, A Lackluster Choreograph

Bound is a video game I desperately wanted to love. From all the previews and screenshots, I had no idea what I was about to get into. However, everything I saw increased my excitement levels. Multiple playthroughs later, I can't help but to feel disappointed. While developer Plastic's latest title absolutely delivers in form, it leave a lot to be desired when it comes to substance.

The first thing you need to know about Bound is that it's utterly beautiful. Artstyle is unlike anything I've seen before. The world is made out of geometrical shapes that work similarly to clay. As you walk next to walls, structures deform and rebuild in breathtaking fashion. Even if every character is faceless, you get a genuine sense of personality thanks to sound effects and crisp movement. The game's female protagonist is a ballerina. Real dancers were mo-capped doing a variety of routines, and the results speak for themselves: she moves with grace, and you can put together artistic choreographs as you traverse the levels.

Performance is very smooth, without a trace of framedrops or stuttering. As a whole, presentation is fantastic. Combining the original visuals, with the fluid & extravagant movement, alongside the extremely suiting soundtrack leads to a exceptionally poetic experience.

Another fascinating element comes along with the story. Reviewers have been asked to remain vague when it comes to specific details. However, I'll tell you this: it simultaneously delivers a narrative of parental conflict and a princess saving her mother's kingdom from a vicious monster. The ways in which the two storylines are linked together are like the rest of Bound: artistic and abstract. Players have the ability to choose the order in which they progress through the game, allowing them to interpret the events in their own way. Personally, it never triggered any personal emotions within me, but I enjoyed the way it was crafted.

When it comes to gameplay, Bound hits its biggest bump. For the most part, there are two modes in the moment-to-moment interactions. The first one is a narrative-driven 'walking simulator'. I actually believe this is where the game truly shines. Dropping its flawed mechanics and letting us explore the world. There are numerous locations in which the player is simply dancing in between grassy areas or delicately navigating narrow beams, with no task aside from moving the joystick. At that moment, the artstyle and music punch in, allowing you to briefly see Bound for the gorgeous piece of art it intended to be.

A similar feeling arrives towards the end of each stage. Players must slide along an orange carpet through jaw-dropping landscapes as the soundtrack slowly builds up. Each time it happened, I remembered titles like 'Journey' or 'Abzu', which I believe is a positive sign. Sadly, it eventually ends and it's time for you to dive into the real, lackluster platforming.

Indeed, the second mode is a 3D platformer. Now, if you saw a video of somebody playing, you'd probably think I'm insane for criticizing it. The game successfully plays with gravity, making you jump in a variety of law-breaking angles. For all intents and purposes, it looks fun. Regardless, it really isn't. To begin with, the camera is a mess. Even with manual controls, the camera will often go rogue, dramatically switching angles and causing you to miss a jump or ruin your sense of direction.

Then, we get to the generic gripe I've had with 3D platformers for the past 10 years. For the most part, they suck. Sadly, Bound doesn't fix that issue. The platforming itself is pretty straightforward and basic, but besides the camera, the controls are sort of sloppy. There is no real sense of distance and your character is very light, so at times you will jump thinking you're good to go and simply fall short of the next podium. So while you will die frequently, death isn't punished. Players are spawned exactly where they were before the fall. Luckily, that removes the fury you'd feel if forced to restart the entire thing. Nevertheless, falling repeatedly because of the game itself is quite frustrating.

Verdict: Bound's interesting world, fascinating movement, and poetic vibes are occasionally overshadowed by sloppy controls and a messy camera.

The Good
- Unique Artstyle
- Bizarre Storytelling
- Poetic Movement

The Bad
- Messy Camera
- Sloppy Controls

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