This decade alone has produced some of the most emotionally charged and experimental exclusives for PS4, including The Last of Us, Journey, and the forthcoming The Last Guardian. In a similar vein, Bound—created by the independent Polish studio, Plastic—leaps ahead the typical 3D platformer narrative. There aren’t any casual enemies respawning or health bars to fill, and there certainly aren’t any maps. It contains a series of fairly simple puzzle vignettes (not quite precise levels) that players can complete in any order. It’s a short game whose main story may be completed in just about six hours.
Its replay value, however, rests on the fact that there are over 120 different ways to play the main game, inducing different endings and tons of feels. Last year, game developer Michal Staniszewski commented, “We are going to deliver a ‘notgame’ to you, which is also a game. It’s up to you to decide how you would like to play.” At the start of the game, the protagonist is a blank slate, a tabula rasa journeying through a world that reacts to the player’s run-through. The developers definitely want you to share your Bound journey, because chances are other players have experienced the story differently.
The first thing that capture my attention was the main character—a slender humanoid with a winged ruby helmet. She has no name and no language other than a jumble of sounds. She speaks through dance—all of her movements were motion captured using professional European dancer Maria Udod as a model in real-life with choreography by Michał Adam Góral. It’s refreshing to not have to run and jump like normal human characters. She’s an aerobatic dancer who moves with her own style of grace and harmony, not based on a single dance technique but rather many genres of existing techniques (so try not to refer to her as a ballerina).
When making your way across a narrow ledge she doesn’t simply inch along the wall. Rather, her feet flutter in what’s called a bourrée as her arms twist around her body to grab hold of the wall. That extra dash of attention to detail elevated my experience with this character. The electro-acustic soundtrack to Bound—performed by Oleg “Heinali” Shpudeiko, a contemporary musician from Ukraine—is extraordinary stunning as well.
On the surface level, the low-poly world you traverse is as beautiful and fantastical as any world conjured up by Delirium, my favorite character from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. The game’s environment is influenced by a mix of modern art movements like the geometric Suprematism from Russian and primary-colored lines of Neoplasticism. The sense of depth between the dynamic character and the shifting background is immense and definitely share-worthy. (I found myself getting lost in moments of paused gameplay that had to be captured and saved to my PS4.) Thankfully, the game comes equipped with a full-feature photo mode that’ll allow players to capture high-quality screenshots to cherish and share.
In short, Santa Monica Studio‘s latest joins the ranks of games with brilliant creative capabilities and complex emotional gameplay, all with a Star Wars-esque character whose dance moves put Crash Bandicoot to shame. Thanks to a clear motive in this game to connect the expanding story to a player’s immediate visual reaction, Bound is beautiful on the surface, but also tragic and complex on the inside. Its story and environment will linger in your mind long after finishing the game.
Take a look at our gallery below for more gameplay images. Bound goes to an exciting new level on October 13 when it becomes playable on Playstation VR via a free upgrade. For now, we’re eager to hear everyone’s stories. Let us know what you’ve discovered in Bound!
Rating: 4 out of 5 burritos.
Images: SIE Santa Monica Studios