Bound is a 3D platformer (with a twist, and a Pirouette) from Plastic Studio published by SIE Santa Monica Studios where you play a ballerina princess (hence my hilarious ballerina joke earlier), dancing her way through an abstract world.
If you are not paying attention, you’re going to miss a lot of what Bound has to offer. Even its tutorial takes place with an incredible subtlety that I only managed to witness once. This choice is one that is made with purpose though, as the overlying theme of adolescence and the confusion that comes with adolescence is repeated throughout the unique world and the narrative.
The narrative is not something I will go too in-depth with here in this review, as it’s something best left untouched until you experience it for yourself. It very much takes shape as the world forms around you and you are presented with multiple routes to reach the same goal. Some routes will be met with much more resistance, and others a simple “walk in the park”. However, this knowledge is not presented until you have well and truly made your decision.
The narrative is quite covert. It will mean little-to-nothing to someone who is, once again, not paying attention. But with careful observation, the story has a very real and relatable message that is not something seen in a lot of modern games. It is real, it is emotional, and it is going to mean different things to different people.
Where Bound truly shines is in its audio and its visuals. It is an utterly brilliant culmination of sounds, sights, and animations. Especially the animations. The motion capture of Maria Udod is utterly incredible. Everything from the way your character walks, to the way she pushes large objects. Everything from the way she recovers from an unfortunate tumble off the side of the world to the way she performs sharp turns is handcrafted and lovingly performed to perfection. Then, halfway through the game, you discover that holding L2 spawns a whole new set of animations that are equally breathtaking and beautiful.
I can give you a list of games with breathtaking visuals, I can give you a list of games with breathtaking audio, but Bound is the first with breathtaking animations.
It is an utterly brilliant culmination of sounds, sights, and animations. Especially the animations.
It is unfortunate that this review cannot remain entirely positive as Bound does falter on its platforming. It is not bad, not by a long shot, but it does lack a bit of optimization in a number of places. Whether it be edge detection or jump momentum, there are just some parts that feel unpolished. I feel as though the development team knew this, but instead of focusing their efforts on improving it, they put an “edge protection” setting in the options menu. An option that is turned ‘on’ by default, and yet I still found myself having issues. I would hate to experience what it would be like if it were off. This is unfortunate, as it feels like a smudge on an otherwise flawless masterpiece, and in reality is the only thing stopping me from giving Bound a perfect score.