Disability Game Review: Bound
Written by: Michael Matlock
Years ago on the PS3 the Polish studio Plastic brought us the experimental game about flying dogs and tentacle robots, calling it Linger in Shadows. This year they have come back with a vengeance giving us the ballet inspired fever dream which is Bound. So, Bound is a game that’s kind of hard to describe, and it’s better just to experience for yourself. It’s an art piece really — beautiful, yet complex. The worlds in the game, and the overall look is just strange and abstract. The story itself is open to interpretation. Though at its core “Bound” is a 3D platformer
with some puzzles thrown in and a main focus on narrative. If there’s one main thing I can say Bound is about, it’s dance. Dancing takes up a lot of the game. You dance to interact with the world, and, more specifically, you dance to protect yourself from enemies. A lot of research was done by the creative team to really nail the movements of a ballet dancer, and it looks amazing.
As far as options, there aren’t many, and it isn’t a game that has customizable controls.
Still, the game is really simple and I think, all together, you’ll only be pressing about three buttons in the whole game. Just a heads up, the camera can be kind of temperamental. When I was playing it, it was hard to control. I noticed that, even when I was standing still, the camera kept moving. The camera was so sensitive that I actually thought it had something to do with motion control. But I don’t think the game has motion controls, so I think it’s just really sensitive. I recommend lowering the camera sensitivity way down. This also the only game that has a really strange feature that, has it so you when move the camera, it directly effects objects in the game. What I mean is, the main character is never hidden from view. This can be helpful, but sometimes it also means that the objects you come in contact with can fall apart and it’s not just a visual aid, it really does fall apart. If you’re not careful you can fall, through the ground, or fall through a wall if your angle is just so. So, yeah, something to keep in mind. There’s also kind of a cool feature called an “Edge Guard” in the game. It protects you from walking off an edge of anything. You can still fall by jumping over or off of something, but this will protect you from just walking off something. It can be turned off and on.
The only other button that has a main function is the run button that you have to hold down. I can tell you right now, though, I played through the whole game, and not once did I have to run when playing. It’s because of this that I think disabled gamers with fine motor-skill impairments shouldn’t have much trouble playing. Though I feel like I should mention that you can gain this thing that’s like a long jump and to activate it, you roll, and then immediately jump. It took a little bit for me to get the hang of, but it’s pretty simple and you really don’t have to use it, except maybe once or twice. Just a heads up, it’s rare, but there are timed puzzles in the game. Again, you don’t ever have to run during these puzzles, and in my experience, pressing the roll button is a good substitute. Rolling is a great way to move quickly without running. To get past most obstacles, however, you’ll be doing the dance mechanic. You have to hold down the dance button, and, once you do, a protective circle of ribbons appear around you. And it lasts for about 30 seconds whether you’re dancing or not. The barrier protects you from harm, as there are things that can hurt you in the game or stop you from moving forward. You can also die in the game, but the game doesn’t really penalize you for this, as you seem to have infinite lives. When you die the game just transports you back to the last place you were. It’s obvious that the game auto-saves constantly which is helpful.
On the audio side of things, disabled gamers with hearing impairments shouldn’t have any trouble playing Bound. There aren’t any subtitles that you can turn off and on, but that’s okay because the game has automatic subtitles that pop up on black background with a nice, white font during cut scenes. When there is dialog, which is rare, it’s in this unintelligible babble, so it shouldn’t be difficult to understand for anyone who can’t hear. I guess you’ll be missing out on a really cool sound track, but music doesn’t affect the gameplay at all.
Gamers with visual impairments should do fine in this game. This time around I took screenshots of the game and put them through a filter that was supposed to help me understand what it would look like if I were colorblind and I didn’t notice any problems. I mean, I do think that colorblind players will definitely have a different experience when they’re playing Bound
because the game has lots of bright reds and blues. So it will look very different and maybe just a little strange, but it should be fine as far as, going through the game. There’s nothing that should stop you from getting anywhere. At times there are red or blue trails that point you in the direction you’re supposed to go but they’re always above something white or dark grey so they should be easy to see whether you know the color or not. Visually the only problem I could find is that certain parts of the game have a cluttered screen. I don’t mean on your HUD, because there isn’t a HUD display in the game, but objects will come flying at you and at times it can be sort of hard to see where you’re going. There’s a particular part of the game that has these giant purple orbs that sort of act like mini-planets. When you jump on them, they have their own gravitational pull, and sometimes the perspective change could, like, make you feel a little dizzy.
It made me feel dizzy and I’m not usually sensitive to those kind of things, so fair warning.
Bound is a treat for the senses. It uses the art of dance to create a very simple, but different style of gameplay. Though there aren’t any customizable controls in the game, you only need to press a few buttons overall. With no real speaking dialogue and easily readable subtitles, gamers with hearing impairments should have no trouble at all playing the game. Bound has plenty of psychedelic visuals, but colorblind players should have an easy time navigating through the game. I seriously loved Bound. It was intriguing to watch and easy to play.
Overall Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Visual Rating: Barrier Free
Fine-Motor Rating: Thoroughly Accessible
Auditory Rating: Barrier Free
Released For: PS4
ESRB Rating: E