Something like Bound is a bit difficult to write a quick impression of. It’s something that really lies in the experience, and it is difficult to find words for it. That being said I will attempt the best I can. Bound follows the story of a pregnant woman as she reflects on her childhood. You take control of her as she walks along a beach with a notebook. Every few feet she stops, and you choose a page from the notebook to play.
Gameplay is done platformer style, however movements of your character are inspired by dancing. As you make your way through the world, you will do various dance moves to go over obstacles, like moving platforms. You will sometimes have to “dance” creating a shield around yourself as you do so in order to keep your character from being attacked. That seems simple enough you are probably thinking, and honestly gameplay is the most simplistic aspect of this. It is beautifully crafted however, and watching your character move makes the game worthwhile on it’s own.
What makes the game so hard to describe is the story and visuals. You know that you are playing the young girl, you can identify the character meant to be the mother, however the brother and father figures are a bit more difficult to place. The two boys are represented by large creatures, one angry and sort of the antagonist of the story, the other with motivation that is hard to follow. Depending on how you pick your chapters you might come across an idea of what is going on faster than others, but it’s ambiguous to an extent no matter the order. Sometimes the brother seems a bit negative, sometimes the father, sometimes the mother herself seems to fill the role of the screaming monster. All you know is that something is playing out, and given that one member of the family is represented so negatively that there is not a happy ending. Honestly as I am writing this I am not even sure that I put together all the pieces of the story correctly.
The art design is equally as challenging as the story. The characters themselves are hard to get a read on. The characters all have helmets, and their actual bodies vary from human to entirely animalistic. It’s hard to describe actually, but rather interesting and equally appealing and unappealing. The same can be said for the levels. They are colorful, and can be beautiful but then very jarring. The world also builds itself around you as you progress forward so it can be shocking and disorienting. Most of my deaths were caused by my inability to actually see where platforms were, or lack of understanding of how things were being built around me. Going even further the perspective changes often, and sometimes without warning. You will be walking then pass through a door and upside down, then on your side, etc. Beyond that the actual background (not what you are moving on) is in constant movement. It’s geometric, fast, and like a lot of this game beautiful yet not. Saying it’s not beautiful is not an insult though, it’s exactly what the game needs. Something like this stands out as unique because it’s not a perfectly lovely game, instead it’s equal parts beautiful, ugly, relaxing, stressful, and because of this phenomenally artistic style.
My biggest, and arguably only compliant is the soundtrack. The music that is present is beautiful, but it’s not there enough. Whole sections of the game will be silent, and the music often takes far too long to build and then passes quickly. I can understand the choice to do this, to an extent. However I feel the game suffers for it rather than shines. I really feel gameplay would have reached another level had the music been more present, and I am disappointed it was not.
This game is a unique and wonderful experience. It is short, but can be played multiple times without getting repetitive. It can be difficult at times with the more jarring aspects, but something about the combination of that difficulty with the beauty of it makes it more appealing. If you like more artistic games you need to play this. If you are on the fence, I would highly suggest giving it a go.