Man oh man has playstation Plus been a roller coaster of a service over the years. When it first started out all those years ago I couldn’t wait to get my hands on most of the games that were offered. Triple-A titles left right and centre, all whilst being the same price (if not cheaper in many instances) than Microsoft’s Xbox Live service.
I open with this context, as Bound comes to me courtesy of the Playstation Plus service, and my oh man has it been a let down these last few years. Nothing but indie games people haven’t heard of combined with Sony published games that never reviewed well in the first place. Polygon’s Owen Good wrote a fantastic piece on this exact issue just a few days ago, and I feel it explains my feelings on the service perfectly: https://www.polygon.com/2017/12/2/16728566/games-with-gold-and-playstation-plus-free-games-2017-analysis-opinion
So with that being said, is Bound a good enough game to bring PS+ out of the depths and allow gamers to feel they’re getting good value for money? Unfortunately not.
Not knowing anything about Bound before jumping in, I downloaded the game, and proceeded to boot it up. I was first presented with a pregnant lady leaving a car and proceeding to walk down a beach. Ok I thought, you’ve peaked my interest, what is Bound about? As I pushed the pregnant lady on, the game proper manifested, with a weird polygonal world manifesting in this ladies imagination. In this world, she’s merely a little girl, with her mother (the queen) appearing to have everything under control. You proceed to explore this rather gorgeous setting, only to find all is not as it seems, with a monster lurking around screaming at you, causing the sound princess to lose consciousness.
Once that little intro is finished, you’re not in control of the pregnant lady once more, but this time the real world is actually a level select menu, with each turn of a new notepad being a different level to experience. You can proceed to take on any level in anyway you see fit, but being the boring bugger I am, I proceeded to just start from the furthest left level and make my way across to the right.
The reason you’re able to take on levels in anyway you see fit? Because the game is abstract enough to only provide a little bit of context at the end of each level. So whilst each level is an abstracted example of what happened to the lady in her childhood, it’s only the very end of a level which actually shows what happened. In many instances it’s just showing normal family life, although throughout the campaign you’ll start to get the sense that something isn’t quite right. I shan’t go into spoilers, but whilst I felt the narrative and gameplay were a little too disjointed, it all concluded nicely in the end.
Onto the gameplay, which, as mentioned before is fairly disjointed from the main story. You play a weird looking princess in an abstract blocky world. As you proceed through, you’ll notice the princess moves like a ballerina would, swaying to and fro about the level as you navigate her around. Occasionally you’ll happen across obstacles that try to kill your princess, and it’s up to you to either avoid them, or, should you actually get caught, worm your way out of the predicament by pressing R2 to dance nasties away.
The stages are gorgeous to navigate, with enough particle effects to make anyone say wow should they see it in action, I just couldn’t help but feel it was all a bit too easy. Plastic, the develops of Bound, may have been just a little too inspired by games like Journey and Flower, and whilst they were trying to replicate the simpleness and majesty of the aforementioned games, just couldn’t actually make the world feel coherent in the story. As a consequence, the game and story just can’t help but feel plastered together – two unrelatable ideas smashed together to try and make something of a game.
Story and lack of coherence aside, musically Bound doesn’t hold up too well either. In my time in the world I cannot recall a single song that’s stayed with me past my completion, a terrible state of affair for a game centred around a ballerina princess.
Navigation/controls aren’t exactly fantastic, with me accidentally killing my character far too often, even with simple controls on, meaning my character wouldn’t walk over the end of surfaces. Further annoyance can be found in that not all the controls are explained, meaning on my first play through of the game I couldn’t reach many area’s purely because my characters move set was never explained properly. One could argue that the developers want you to replay the levels a second time with this added knowledge, but I personally so no reason to revise – past seeing what the main story was, there isn’t much more for me to see, both in the abstract worlds, and in controlling the ballerina princess.
Whilst it’s world is fantastic to navigate through, you can’t help but feel Bound could have been so much more than what was released. The story, whilst fairly basic by the end of the campaign, had so much potential, it’s just a shame that some developers think that adding obfuscation makes a basic story better. The world too, whilst being gorgeous, could have been more fleshed out, linking more to the girls past as opposed to being abstract beyond recognition. As you can then tell, Bound is ok, but could have been a fantastic game up there with Abzu should the developers have spent a bit more time working on tying everything together.
Bound then is another perfect Playstation Plus release – mediocre and Sony published. One day, playstation plus may give us a truly fantastic hit, but so far that is not within sight anytime soon.