A game that surprised me in the best possible way at last weekend's PlayStation Experience was Bound. The creation of Plastic Studio, a small Polish developer previously responsible for the experimental PS3 titles, Linger in the Shadows and Datura, Bound reminded me a little of Journey: It's a narrative storytelling title in which you explore the game's surreal environment and, in doing so, reveal the tale that underpins the game.
It plays out as a 3D platformer in which the player takes the role of a masked female character who moves like a ballerina. By using combinations of button presses, the player is able to string together jumping and rolling moves to navigate obstacles, and the ballerina pirouettes and dances her way across hazards in a most elegant way. It's subtle and at the same time quite beautiful – looking to all intents and purposes like some kind of interpretive dance performance. It should come as no surprise, then, that real-life ballet dancer Maria Udod was motion-captured for the game, under the supervision of choreographer Michał Adam Góral. The game also features some lovely, atmsopheric music, composed by Oleg “Heinali” Shpudeiko, which suits the action perfectly.
Bound's art direction is one of its main draws. According to developer Michał “Bonzaj” Staniszewski, writing on the PlayStation blog, the game's visual style incorporates art movements such as Suprematism, Concretism, Neoplasticism, and Bauhaus. What this mash-up of genres delivers is a game that feels very sharp and angular. Backgrounds are constructed of blocks and triangles that are constantly moving and glitching, making the environments look very cubist in nature, but at the same time feeling alive. There are areas where seas of blocks wash back and forth, and geometric shapes swirl in patterns almost like leaves being blown in the wind. It's a stunning effect, and one that makes the game look quite unique.
While the game's art style is abstract, its action is quite straightforward. I wandered the demo's environment, exploring the landscape, solving simple puzzles such as moving parts of the floor and opening doors to progress. At one point I reached an area where the ballerina needed to dance to piece together a tableau of a father and what I guess were his young daughters. The more she danced, the more pieces of whirling geometry slowly began to stick together to form a cohesive picture. It's hard to describe, but the effect was really quite compelling. Once the picture was complete, I continued on my travels through Bound's weird, but strangely fantastic environment, navigating ropes, narrow bridges and eventually reaching an area where the ballerina was able to dance with ribbons, which seemed to repel the abstract shapes that were swirling around her.
Like I said at the start of this piece, Bound reminded me a little of Journey in that it features a central character whose mission is ultimately a story that is revealed as you progress through the game. From what little I could glean from the demo, the ballerina is a Princess whose kingdom is being attacked and ravaged by some kind of monster, and it's her responsibility to put an end to its rampage. Quite how she does this is unclear, but considering that the game is non-violent in nature, and all the ballerina can do is dance, I'm quite intrigued to find out exactly how this game will conclude.
Whether Bound will be able to hit the same kind of heights as Journey in terms of its overall experience remains to be seen. It looks fabulous, running at 60 fps in full 1080p, and certainly seems to have all the ingredients to deliver an interesting, albeit experimental gaming experience. While the demo was very simple, it did make quite an impression on me: I want to know more about this title, and explore its artistic environments further. Hopefully we'll be able to do that next year, when the game is expected to be released.