Review: Bound (PS4/PSVR)

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Formats:

  • PlayStation 4

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • PlayStation VR Optional
  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Bound
Format: PSN (1.6 GB)
Release Date: August 16, 2016
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Plastic Studios / SIE Santa Monica Studio
Original MSRP: $19.99 (US), €19.99 (EU), £15.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: E10+
PEGI: 7
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

There will be no spoilers in this review and I urge you to try your utmost to avoid other sites and media outlets that may not care so much. I will absolutely avoid mentioning or posting images for a large portion of the game.

Gameplay:
You control a strange-looking female ballet dancer, and with barely any onscreen prompts, you quickly learn how to control this graceful character. As with life, you have an abundance of choices when playing Bound. Some may be difficult or hard to see and others seem like a good decision until it is too late to change your mind.

The path you take is up to you but the outcome stays the same. You can however change the journey you take by the order in which the experiences are taken. New routes may open and dangers may be averted.

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A story unfolds over the course of the experiences and each is bookended by an important moment. The way in which this is done cannot be written here. In fact, hardly any of my time with the game can be mentioned, as doing so spoils and degrades the experience you will have.

You are not alone in this fantastical world and the entities you encounter help shape the story and pile on even more emotion to the narrative. I desperately want to elaborate on their impact and gravitas but even that may alter your perception on this dramatic world.

… best played in one sitting …
As you might have noticed, I keep on referring to the levels as experiences. Now they are levels in the strictest sense, they have jumps, ladders, dangers, and much more that you would expect to find in a typical game. However, Bound is not your typical game and its levels are so much more.

To get the most from the game, it is best played in one sitting. After completion you can try a different order to the experiences and hunt for any missing shards.

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Your ballet dancer moves with effortless grace and finesse, tumbling along a wall, tiptoeing up stairs, and even cowering with fright at peril. It’s as if the game is an almighty stage. Simple button combinations allow your dancer to perform eloquent ballet moves that help to repel dangers and imposing forces.

Some moves also help her to reach hidden or difficult areas that were otherwise inaccessible. It took an age before I figured out how to leap further. I had to watch as her terrified body plummeted into the abyss many times over before I accidentally pressed a button just before the jump.

Optional PlayStation VR and 3D Content
Visuals:
The scale of this game is immense and I often stopped for a minute to pan the camera, taking in the sheer magnitude of the scene all around the delicate ballet dancer. An undulating ocean of shapes stretches out below you as far as the eye can see.

Each level builds itself around the dancer as she walks toward it. A contorted jumble of shapes swirls and glides into place making the walls and floor. The camera itself moulds and warps anything it gets near and everything that comes between it and the dancer, like a sculptor and its muse.

You are not controlling an unstoppable killing machine as they jump about a market square avoiding a barrage of gunfire, all the while cracking jokes and saving the day. You guide a mesmerizing dancer around a place where normal does not apply.

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With the press of the touch pad you can set up and take some breathtaking pictures, a feast of adjustments await and a connoisseur of the fragility of beauty will have a field day with the possibilities this game affords.

Just a little side note, Bound will be patched at a later date to support PlayStation VR. When that time comes I will certainly jump back into the stunning world at least one more time.

… an emotionally charged experience …
Audio:
You need to hear the sounds and music, for they purvey many emotions that amplify the charged gameplay and thought-provoking moments peppered throughout the game. A powerful and poignant tune resonates throughout the game that seems to grow and change with each thing you face.

I strongly suggest using a pair of headphones and could not imagine playing this game any other way. I commend the developers at Plastic for making the audio fit so perfectly with the graphics and gameplay.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only but does feature extensive leaderboards for the speedrunning modes that are unlocked once the game has been completed.

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Conclusion:
Bound is an emotionally charged experience that can stir up memories and thoughts for most that play it. During the couple of hours it takes to see the outcome of the journey you take, some will question their preconceptions and maybe even one or two will take a moment to think about their own experiences.

This is why I love games, you can escape into impossible worlds, see and do things you never thought possible and every once in awhile, have several art forms blend together to make a memorable composition. After the credits roll, you have things to do and challenges to best but for me, Bound gave me a jolt that still has me thinking.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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  • MJC

    It is on sale this week so I may finally pick it up.