Who would have thought wrapping a bird in string could be so entertaining?
There’s no denying that Zen Bound is a strange game. The whole idea of wrapping a peculiar mammal shaped object in string is quite hard to get one’s head round at first. But once you have, Zen Bound becomes more than a game in the traditional sense. Zen Bound is an experience; a calm, relaxing and almost therapeutic experience that will have gamers playing for completely different reasons than they would another game. Developer Secret Exit likens it to ‘popping bubble wrap’, or ‘scraping a label off a bottle of soda’, and the experience is equally as satisfying as either.
The aim with Zen Bound is to simply wrap an object in string. Tilting the iPhone will change the angle of the string relevant to the object, and dragging the object using the touch screen will rotate the object, thus wrapping it in the string. It does take a little while to get used to, there’s a subtlety to the controls that won’t come naturally at first. As gamers, we’ve been conditioned to complete things as quickly as possible, and most people will be quite heavy handed in their initial approach to wrapping an object. Zen Bound teaches the player to unlearn that mentality.
The game encourages a slow style of play, there’s no reward for completing a level quickly. The only thing that matters is wrapping as much of the object as you can, while using as little of the string as possible. The game has been designed around flow states, meaning that a player may find them self zoning out, losing them self in the game completely, which is something I can certainly testify to.
Each level dangles from the branch of a tree that acts as the level select screen. The object of the game is to ascend this tree, with objects becoming more difficult as you do so. Completing an object will result in a flower blossoming on that branch of the tree. Wrapping 70% of an object will blossom one flower, 85% will blossom two, and if you can wrap 99% of an object, all three flowers will blossom. Certain areas of the tree are only available after amassing a certain number of flowers, which is an incentive to wrap an object as efficiently as possible.
On a technical level, the game is more than impressive. The 3D objects that make up each level of the game look fantastic. Just with visuals alone the game would be great, but combined with a soundtrack from Ghost Monkey, the game becomes a completely different experience. With headphones in, playing in a peaceful environment, a player may feel a sense of higher consciousness playing Zen Bound. Of course I exaggerate slightly, but the audio really is integral to the experience, and shouldn’t be played without.
As you may or may not have found out, explaining the game with mere words is a challenging task, to fully comprehend the game, try it for yourself. Zen Bound has joined an elite selection of must have games on the iPhone. A thoughtful, deep, and bordering on spiritual game, that everybody with an iPhone or iPod touch should experience. Zen Bound is gaming nirvana.
- Sound: 10
- Graphics: 9
- Gameplay: 9
- Longevity: 8
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