After a week of playing Bound with the kids, my husband said, “It’s a weird game. It looks like it’s meant for VR, not a 2D platform. Also it’s really dumb.” Having played the game now myself, I can say that he’s right on the first, sort of right on the second, and should be ignored on the third because he thinks many things are stupid.
It was my artistic daughter who loved this game and wanted to teach me how to play. The reason for that became clear pretty quickly when she started me out by saying, “Okay Mom. So, you’re going to be a pregnant woman, and then you’re going to be a princess who loves to dance.”
I am not particularly into dancing princesses and I am way over being pregnant, but I was quickly drawn into the game by the graphics. I have never seen anything like it. The game is designed to look very modern — almost cubist. The colors are very clean and the shapes are mostly squares and rectangles. The ocean, for example, is made up of undulating white squares. At some points during the game, the world turns upside down and your character moves along its underside. It really is, as my kids put it, “so cool.”
The goal of the game is for you, a dancing princess wearing a magenta fencing mask, to stop a monster (an enormous, roaring, pokey-looking guy) from destroying the kingdom. Along the way the princess loses consciousness an unhealthy number of times, and when she’s out you go into her mind where you see scenes of human families eating dinner and shooting paper airplanes at each other. I don’t know what it means, but according to Freud’s interpretation of dreams it means that Princess Face Mask has some deeply buried issues regarding sexuality and sin. But I’ll leave the therapy to her mom, Queen Blank Face.
You get the sense throughout the game that there is some kind of deeper meaning to everything. As someone who has never been good at symbolism, I was left scratching my head much of the time. But I did enjoy the straight-forward gameplay and the fact that all I really needed to do was get from one place to the next. The best part of the game, by far, is when the princess finds The Savior, who her mother has told her to ask for help. They then have the following exchange:
Princess: “Savior. Help me defeat the monster.”
Savior: “Which monster?”
Princess: “…The one destroying the kingdom.”
Savior: “The kingdom is already destroyed.”
What happens next is wonderfully insane. The princess starts screaming, and the only way to get her to stop is for her to — wait for it — dance. She scream-dances her way out of emotional pain. She dances her way to safety when attacked by birds, fire, and spiders. It is the weirdest goddamn thing, but the kind of weirdness that I appreciate.
Bound is a great game for someone like my daughter who is less competitive and more easily frustrated. You don’t have a set number of lives, and when you die you start from right where you stopped. If you complete the entire game — as my daughter did within a matter of days, because summer — you can choose to play again while being timed and work on getting through it as fast as you can.
The gameplay and controls are simple, something I appreciate. There are only a few different moves you need to use and most of the time you are just running and jumping…well, prancing and leaping, I guess. The oddest part of this character is the fact that when she moves, she prances. She sticks her arms straight out to her sides, and prances along. It’s pretty weird. But now, when my husband and I need a little pick me up, we prance around the house. It’s added a little sassiness to our lives.
All in all, Bound is an interesting low-stakes game that is great for gamers who want something with more of a story, less stress, and a whole bunch of weird.