E3 2016: Movement and Dance Are Bound Together – Hands-On Preview

Bound caught my eye today on the show floor. In this neat indie game you play a lithe, grass green skin female being who wears a shiny pink helmet with metallic wings sprouting out. Her face is obscured while her dress is a new digital age form of glitter. Such a description might sound ridiculous, but it perfectly captures the off-beat path that Bound takes. This is a world brimming in abstraction. The main character’s limbs look and feel graceful as the world moves in continuous patterns. The platforms ebb and flow like some kind of dream. The color palate is rich, crisp. If I told you this was an installation at the MOCA you’d believe me.

This way the being moves is as close to interpretative dance as I’ve ever seen in a videogame. This means that while the music is very much a key ingredient, players won’t be moving their body to a beat. The movement of her body shows expression in its truest form. This is no mistake; Bound‘s animations have been motion captured with the latest technologies. Movements like a cartwheel, are rarely just utilitarian. Every roll, jump, or twist of a limb is confident and natural. I’ve never seen a character like her.

Bound‘s world has a similar attention to detail. After a quick intro informs you that the main character’s mother needs her to defeat a monster, you’re off to find it. Large color blocks can be activated to open doorways of the same color. Shadows leap across caverns instructing the player to do the same. Huge waves of blocks fill a room and then recede in abstraction. Nothing stops. Bound only knows how to move.

There’s also a moment when dancing becomes particularly purposeful. By holding R2 a flutter of blue geometric pieces swirl around the character. This user-generated tornado obliterates walls in its wake. Yet, the player’s body never seems to be in “game mode”. This is just another evolutionary level of the dance.

The demo was in two parts. The first ended with what looked like a memory of a dad and two kids playing chess. The second ended with a huge monster wailing as the main character rode a paper plane while her mother was blown into oblivion. Where Bound goes from there is anyone’s guess. Which, amidst all the chaos of E3, is a welcomed departure.

Bound will be released exclusively for the PS4 on August 16th.