Dancing is a form of expression that exists since the dawn of civilization. It is used to convey and evoke emotions through its combination of strides, gait and gestures.
In Bound, the player takes on the role of a princess of an alternate universe who is tasked by her queen to stop a gigantic threat, known simply as ‘the monster’, from ruining their kingdom.
The first thing to realise is the princess performs ballet moves at every step and action. It’s fascinating to see the graceful poses she does while moving forward, getting up from the ground, crouching, shimmying along narrow ledges, climbing steps and pushing objects. The most beautiful is when you get her to execute a series of moves continuously – the ribbon she wear on each wrist trigger longer strands that surround her, forming a sphere-like field. This acts as some form of protection as she attempts to advance.
Although she’s a member of royalty, the world they occupy is different from ours. There are no subjects or military to rule over and almost everything is made of polygons of various shapes, sizes and function. Some of them react in her presence, leading to branching paths and change of landscape. Some appear as tendrils that aim to restrain upon close proximity and delay her progress.
In the face of danger, the princess is encouraged to keep on dancing. Different combinations of buttons conjure specific dance moves and when you string them together well, the flow of movement is beautiful to admire. I remember hitting the Share button many times to capture screenshots and short action clips.
In the first hour, Bound kept me guessing on the appropriate genre it aims to be. With all the trotting and scaling over structures and terrain, it seems to be a type of platformer. However, the freedom to roam makes this feel like an exploration game.
Alternatively, the player also takes limited control of a pregnant lady taking a stroll by the beach with her sketchbook, but I shall leave it to the player to discover her purpose and connection. Small clue: it offers an interesting manner of approach.
The entire quest is broken down into pockets of adventure, and completing each of them allows the player to unravel a still but three-dimensional image of a past incident. Most of them do not look like pleasant moments. It kept me thinking even when I took a break from the game. I was curious to find out if my interpretation was spot on, and that spurred me to come back for answers.
Bound is not a lengthy game. You might start slow at first, but once momentum and familiarity is gained, it’s easy to glide through and enjoy the journey. Don’t worry about missteps. Falling to her death immediately spawns her back to the nearest safe location instantly. No loading screen or backtracking of progress; perhaps along with an excellent accompanying musical score, it is meant to encourage the player to get up and move on.
Those who completed the game can consider replaying through the speed-run mode. This is to test the player’s memory of the landscape and agility at overcoming the obstacles. Others who prefer to marvel and capture beauty in motion may appreciate its elaborate photo capture mode.
As fascinating as it is, Bound may not appeal to some players. Some may be turned off at the lack of waypoints, character progression and the inability to unlock and customise additional dance moves. If you cannot embrace its expressive nature of interpretation, there may not be a reason to return.
Bound is a beautiful and artistic representation of ballet and orchestrated score within an exploration landscape, out exclusively on PS4.
A digital copy was provided for review.