Art is something that moves you on an emotional level. Maybe you aren’t even sure of how, or why, or even what you’re feeling, but the point is that it made you feel something. It resonated within you. Bound is like this.
Bound is a colorful, thought-provoking platformer developed by Plastic Studios and produced by Sony Santa Monica. It’s an artistic 'non-game' that is more of an interactive, interpretative dance than it is a platformer. The platforming mechanics seem to exist purely to give the viewer a means of pushing the narrative forward. Some of the mechanics aren't even all that necessary as much as they are aesthetically pleasing - such as the dodge action. The gameplay is very light and not exactly “fun” or gamey, but still a joy to play.
Every movement you make with the female protagonist is part of a dance. Walking, jumping to another landing, sliding down ribbon, and shimmying across a narrow ledge all contain a balletic rhythm to the movement. The dances themselves are representative of the part of the narrative you are in, and many times throughout the game you dance in self-defense of different attackers. Each dance tell a bit of the story.
The controls are excellent, and the character animations are as fluid as you would expect from a dancer. The camera can get a bit wonky at times - changing to a fixed lense during awkward shifts is a bit off-putting, but mostly forgivable. Each chapter has a different dance to match the tone - some flowing and bouncy, while others are more erratic and violent. The balletic movements are a refreshing and unique mechanic that I wanted to see incorporated more wholey, but felt more like an unfinished idea in the end.
Each stage begins in total disarray. The world is in pieces of miscellaneous shapes, colors, and sizes. These pieces are part of the stage around you, and float in the distance overhead – almost dancing too. As you walk closer to these areas of chaotic polygons, they rebuild themselves to reveal a path to take, or a ladder, or a wall that blocks your way. The ground shudders under every step you take. The world is alive, and responsive. There are no grounded physical laws. The surface you land on feet-first becomes your new center of gravity. This allows for a creative progression of the world, and secrets to uncover.
Like I mentioned before, I didn’t exactly have fun playing Bound; it wasn’t much of a game (hence non-game), and it had many faults in that sense, but I did find myself captivated by its emotional depth, and metaphorical, balletic storytelling. Though it may fall short of being an entertaining video game experience it holds up as an artistic one. It was an experience of similar ilk to reading poetry, or a book. You contribute little to nothing, yet walk away with more than you had going in. I thoroughly enjoyed my 2-3 hours playing Bound - it's a game very worth your time.
Look for this beautifully moving experience exclusively on Playstation 4 Digital - Released 8/16
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