Bound takes the player into a fantastic dreamscape symbolizing a woman revisiting her childhood memories.
Now, as you may notice, that is quite a short summary, but why is it so short? Simply put, Bound’s narrative is a story best experienced without a lot of prior knowledge beforehand, as the story leans on the fact that the player tries to understand the meaning of the story as they move throughout the game, which is an idea that is easily lost once you gain knowledge of the plot prior to your play through.
The fun thing about the game is that I spent a lot of time speculating about what this fantastical world symbolizes within the world of our real-world character. Everything connects, even though it may not always seem as apparent at first, and it makes Bound a slightly more interactive experience as going through the storyline feels like a gameplay element at times, which adds an extra needed dimension to the gameIf I’d have to point out any weakness within Bound’s narrative, it’s that the storyline feels rather unresolved at the end, which arguably feels like it could symbolize the fact that the game wants to be as ambiguous as it can be about the resolution of the story, but in practice it does feel rather rushed, and creates kind of a “that’s it?” feeling as the game ends on quite an abrupt note.If there is any specific aspect that you’d have to note as Bound’s greatest strength, it’s the amazing visual presentation that Plastic Studios and Santa Monica have been able to create for this fantastical dreamscape. The first things that really came to my mind in the opening levels is the fact that the game is essentially a collection of fantastical paintings, mixed with hints of M.C. Escher and Inception-like dynamics that created a real sense of awe as you set out to explore this imaginary world.
Whether it’s the simple, yet artistic nature of the game’s world, or the fact that the game becomes trippier as you go along, Bound is quite a stunning game to look at, and even the details elevate the game to a whole other level. Tiny objects, PlayStation button-shaped rain drops and incredible lighting, those are the things that add a whole other dimension to a game that is already so well designed on a visual front that I literally spent hours in photo mode just taking in the game world, which is an experience that stands on its own next to the gameplay.
The next best example of a game I could compare to Bound would be Journey, though this isn’t exactly a positive conversation per se. Whilst I was awed by the storytelling and graphical aspects of the game, Bound’s gameplay isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.Bound is set-up to be quite a simple platformer, focussing on the journey (no pun intended) throughout the narrative as our main character makes her way throughout the dreamscape. During the first hour I felt like I was getting a proper gameplay introduction with some simpler levels, awaiting challenge and new aspects of gameplay, but once I neared the end of the game, I realized that the things I was waiting for would never come. The problem here isn’t necessarily the difficulty (or lack thereof), as the game focusses more on getting you from point a to b to enjoy the storyline, but at one point Bound seemed to become a repetitious experience.
One of your character’s main moves is to dance in order to break free from the darkness invading the game world, which is a nice and imaginative feature, but in all honesty? After doing that a few times I realized that this was a pattern that I’d be repeating for the next few hours (as short as the game arguably is.) What makes this worse is the fact that general platforming seemed quite dull in retrospect, with interesting bits of variety either being short-lived or introduced so late into the game that it has little effect on your experience as is. This is made worse by the occasionally frustrating camera, which tends to simulate challenge by simply affecting camera angles.
Bound excels in presenting an engaging universe and telling a deep and imaginative story, but where it has the imagination to make the player think and awe at what they’re seeing, it simply doesn’t have as much to tell when it comes to the core gameplay. That being said, it wouldn’t be fair to call Bound a bad game, because it’s simply a flawed one when it comes to gameplay. The lack of engaging gameplay really affected my experience to a certain point, but for what it’s worth Bound’s storytelling managed to salvage what else there was and give me an immersive narrative experience.
The PS4 version of this game was used primarily for the review.