Bound

EDGE - - GAMES - Devel­oper Plas­tic Stu­dios, SIE Santa Mon­ica Stu­dio Pub­lisher SIE For­mat PS4 Re­lease Out now

PS4

Well, we hadn’t quite ex­pected this. We thought Bound was a game about a bal­letic alien girl in a low-poly, voxel-heavy dream­scape. Yet Plas­tic Stu­dio’s third full game opens with us in con­trol of a heav­ily preg­nant woman ar­riv­ing at a beach, sit­ting on the sand and open­ing a note­book. Be­fore long, our ini­tial ex­pec­ta­tions are met, but we’ll re­turn be­tween lev­els to the beach, our avatar mak­ing her way slowly to­wards a dis­tant house. By the end you’ll re­alise Bound’s re­al­ity is of far greater im­port to its story than the fan­tasy that makes up the bulk of its slen­der, even­ing-long run­time. To say why would be to spoil what is a deeply per­sonal tale, and one that’ll likely strike a chord with even those who haven’t been touched by the dark­ness it con­fronts. Only in its fi­nal act does Bound truly show its hand, but there are hints of it as you progress, in mid-level sec­tions where you ex­plore snapshots of the woman’s child­hood me­mories.

Yet for all the mourn­ful am­bi­gu­ity of its nar­ra­tive, in the hands Bound is a de­light, thanks to its lithe, beau­ti­fully an­i­mated pro­tag­o­nist. Take, for in­stance, that most hack­neyed of 3D-plat­former con­ven­tions, the shimmy across a nar­row ledge. Nudge up against the ad­ja­cent wall and our hero­ine per­forms two 360-de­gree spins onto the ledge, dra­mat­i­cally lean­ing into the wall each time, be­fore tippy-toe­ing along it. Hold the run but­ton, or jump along it, and you’ll see fur­ther vari­a­tions. It’s a re­cur­ring theme. Ev­ery ac­tion is ex­e­cuted with such el­e­gance that it’s hard to re­sist slow­ing down and do­ing every­thing with a flour­ish.

Stylish as it is, Bound’s lo­co­mo­tion serves a vi­tal pur­pose. As you sashay and shimmy your way through the strange world, you’ll be ac­costed by en­e­mies, thickly swarm­ing, lock­ing you in place, the dancer curl­ing up, cry­ing out in pain. Hold R2 and her walk be­comes a dance; press a face but­ton and she’ll bust a move, then an­other. Rib­bons swirl around you in an ex­pand­ing globe, serv­ing as a few sec­onds’ worth of shield. A well­timed tap of the Square but­ton will cart­wheel her away from a threat, but there’s plea­sure in let­ting it draw near and at­tack be­fore you dance it into sub­mis­sion.

With an ethe­real, am­bi­ent sound­track and a per­sis­tent lack of threat – en­e­mies can’t kill you, and a mist­imed jump sim­ply de­posits you back on the pre­vi­ous ledge – Bound is med­i­ta­tive to the point of feel­ing so­porific. But you’re pro­pelled through it by the de­sire to see where its com­po­nent strands are lead­ing. And once you’ve found out, chances are you’ll be back for more. Af­ter all, who can re­sist the of­fer of spend­ing an even­ing danc­ing their trou­bles away with­out hav­ing to get up from the sofa?

A roller­coaster-style fab­ric glide closes out each of the lev­els. Sym­bol­is­ing the woman break­ing free of her fears, they’re rem­i­nis­cent of Jour­ney’s sand-surf­ing sec­tion, but here they’re au­to­mated, rather than con­trol­lable

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