Sony Santa Monica - £15.99
Sony Santa Monica break a year-long silence this week in order to publish Bound for the PS4, and - while it hardly represents a substitute for the new God of War game their fans are patiently waiting for - it is in itself an intriguing prospect.
Developed by Polish studio Plastic, the game opens on a beach with a pregnant woman contemplating the waves, browsing through a notebook full of strange sketches from her own childhood. This dissolves into an imaginary world where a kingdom is besieged by a violent and destructive monster. The Queen sends her daughter to investigate, and this young female becomes Bound’s expressive but enigmatic protagonist.
Ephemeral polygons shimmer in and out of view as you begin to navigate the runways and platforms that make up the world. From the very outset, there’s little doubt that Bound is one of the most visually interesting games to emerge on the current console generation.
It almost looks like the optical equivalent of an Aphex Twin album, where glitches are virtuous and the very seams crackle and fizz with energy. The engine even makes good use of the classic 'disappearing wall' effect common in early 3D games, turning what was once a problem into an aesthetically pleasing solution in itself.
With regards to the actual interaction with the game world, the director Michal Staniszewski has described Bound as a ‘notgame’, meaning that many of the tropes consistent with modern video games are absent – no upgrades, no skill trees, no collectables or even penalties for failure. What is does have is a compelling sense of kinetic energy, both in the balletic moves of your character, which serve to ward off barriers and enemies, and in the ever-morphing landscape that must be navigated.
Ribbons stream from your limbs as you spend your time leaping, twisting and pirouetting, stepping lightly like a ballerina lost in an ever-shifting environment where the floor is only as solid as you hope it is – often as you jump, the platforms behind you dissolve into thousands of irregular shards, the floor beneath your dancing feet constantly bulges and contorts itself, giving the impression of impermanence and making the player feel both uneasy at the transitory nature of the terrain, while empowered through the movement of the Queen’s adventurous daughter.
Alternative routes around the levels mean there are different experiences to be found within the same topography, and despite the game being quite short, the nebulous nature of the adventure means it becomes worth repeating just to see how the terrain unfolds differently each time.
Following in the footsteps of other indie games like Journey by doubling down on the enigmatic elements, blurring the line between game and experience, means that Bound probably won’t be for everyone. But for those who desire something different from their consoles, Bound will hit a certain spot that combines spectacular visuals with a compelling sense of mystery.