One of the most exciting new titles I got to play at the 2015 Playstation Experience was Bound. Developed by Plastic Studios, whose most notable works include Linger in Shadows and Datura, Bound feels like an evolution for the studio from surreal experimental entertainment, to a more focused video game that still retains their unique experimentation.
Bound is about a girl who it seems has gone through some kind of trauma that, as you play, will become more and more clear. The character you control acts as an avatar into her mind, where the unique, fragile environments aim to represent her current state. Navigating through these mindscapes involve your basic 3D platforming from what we were able to play. You’ll jump across gaps, shimmy along walls, wall jump, and avoid hazards throughout the adventure. But it’s the girl herself that really takes stage and shows off what is so beautiful about Bound.
Within moments of just watching the game, I was hooked, and by the time I got to play, I was all in. You aren’t just running and jumping your way through Bound, you’re literally dancing your way through it. Every animation and motion that the girl makes is taken from ballet to create visuals I’ve never seen before in a game. There’s even a button to simply dance! I honestly couldn’t stop myself from simply dancing through the tutorial level being demoed even if it took a little longer to complete.
Even though I the dancing is what brought me in, the rest of Bound certainly has done its job of keeping me interested. The environments reflect modern art, Concretism and Neoplasticism have been noted as inspiration, using minimal colors and very straight, blocky design. But what I love so much about the environments is how alive they feel. Pits rise and fall like an ocean. Certain dead ends open up when you get close. It really feels like you’re roaming a world that doesn’t necessarily feel weak, but fragile.
The story is still being held close to the chest and Plastic Studios isn’t revealing too much beyond the demo. Inside the mind, the girl’s mother tasks her with stopping an evil that is destroying their kingdom. Then as you play, you’ll be given short scenes from the “real world” that basically rebuild themselves for the player to view. The scene in the demo showed a father and two children playing chess. Other than knowing we’re diving into the tortured mind of a young girl, we still don’t know much about where the story will go. From what I’ve played of Bound so far though, I want to know more.
One interesting fact about Bound I picked up at PSX was that the developers are trying to make the game as hardcore or a casual as players want to make it. So much so that casual players can run toward a ledge without falling off, but hardcore players can turn that option off making each movement that much more important. Beyond that, each level is filled with shortcuts and secrets that make it perfect for speedrunners to shave seconds off their play time and share their routes with friends. To make this easier, leaderboards as well as ghosts – in the form of dancing ribbons – are in the works to let players see the routes others take, as well as make it easy to compete with friends. In my short time with Bound I already wall jumped up to some ledges that I wasn’t really supposed to get to, but hey, I did it!
With Plastic Studios past experimentation being brought into a more focused and gamified experience, I’m really excited to see the final product. It seems they are still 100% set on Bound being a narrative-driven game, but still adding in those game-y perks for players to go back and replay the game, really digging into what can be accomplished. I love that.
Bound is set to release in 2016 for the PS4.