Bound’s recent launch on PlayStation 4 was met with mixed reviews. Many journalists recognised the unique take on the platform genre blessed with simplistic visual design as a thing of beauty, while others lamented the slow pace and lack of direct action. Could it be that this design was intentional to make best use of the new virtual reality (VR) hardware coming to Sony Interactive Entertainment’s (SIE) market-leading console? It may not have been a conscious decision from the start, but the end result certainly feels that way.
Bound casts the player as an ever-moving character in an aesthetically unique world, similar in intent to the GameCube’s P.N.03 but very different in resulting gameplay. The dancer that represents the player on-screen will use a variety of leaps and twirls to overcome the pitfalls of a chaotic level design, crossing bridges, bounding across gaps and solving switch puzzles all while visually impacting the world. The latter is an impressive visual treat in VR, but it’s actually the puzzling gameplay that makes Bound worthy of the transition to the new medium.
Following the path recently established by Mervils: A VR Adventure, Bound utilises a unique camera system to take full advantage of the range of perspectives available in third-person VR videogames. Instead of automatically following the on-screen avatar, entering a new room or area will position the camera in a default angle. The player can rotate the camera left or right by preset degrees or zoom to the rear of their character in a blink switch: a press of a button will snap the camera in the chosen direction or to the avatar, opposed to a manual rotation.
During gameplay this allows the player to survey the area, find the missing piece of the puzzle and evaluate a route to it with ease. The perspective design is not only unobtrusive, but actually freeing. The indirect implementation of camera-to-player grants a sense of wilderness; you are one small cog in this largely colourless world, but the fact that every move you make causes it to react demonstrates the impact you can have.
When moving to cutscenes Bound triggers a letterbox mode. Disconcerting at first, the short movie connects directly to your front field-of-view like a cinema screen non-reactive to your head movement. However, it only takes a few moments to adapt in the knowledge that these non-interactive scenes are just that, and that this signposting will be common throughout. An awkward transition for sure, but one that is perhaps necessary for the adaptation of more traditional gameplay to the new medium of VR in these very early days.
Bound is already available for PlayStation 4 and according to the PlayStation Store, anyone who’s already purchased the title will receive PlayStation VR compatibility at no extra cost. For those yet to jump into this unique world VRFocus would advise waiting just a little longer; it’s now less than two months until you’ll be able to experience Bound in a whole new way at the launch of PlayStation VR.