iPad Game Review: Zen Bound 2 Universal Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Zen Bound 2 straddles the lines between artistic medium, video game and software toy by providing you with a series of beautifully rendered 3-dimensional objects and asking you to "paint" them by wrapping a cord around them. Trust me; this description does NOT do the game justice. Also note: Zen Bound 2 contains all the levels from Zen Bound 1; re-rendered with the new graphic engine.
In each of the game's increasingly challenging 100 levels, you are presented with a beautifully-rendered three-dimensional wooden object, with a length of rope attached to it. Your task is to wrap the object with the virtual cord by rotating it with your finger. Additionally, the rope is affected by the accelerometer and you will intuitively find yourself rocking your iDevice back and forth to coax the cord into exactly the right place. The latest update added support for the iPhone 4?s gyroscope, adding a whole new level of control. As the rope comes in contact with the object, the wood takes on a new color, giving you a clear indication of what areas have yet to be wrapped. As you progress, a number representing a percentage of surface area covered will slowly count upward toward 100%. Not all levels require you reach 100%, and some levels add in additional variables such as ?paint bombs? attached to the rope or to pins stuck into the object. Lastly, the developers have recently added in-game achievements, which should serve to motivate players to revisit previous levels.
The game components behave in an incredibly realistic manner, such as the way the rope sways back and forth as you work, and how it catches on, or slides off the hard edges of the objects. The beautiful thing about this game is the fact that you instinctively know how to play it the first time you launch it. Even more compelling is how satisfying it is to completely wrap an object and then leisurely rotate it on the screen so you can admire your work. It seems to me that it taps into the same part of the brain that makes people want to be neat and tidy as they gobble up all the dots in Pac Man. The only feature I found myself longing for is a way to share your solutions with others. I watched over the shoulder of my son as he played the game, and I was somewhat amazed at how different his solution looked from my own. It makes me wonder if some Psychology student somewhere will be using this game the way a generation before him used the Rorschach Ink Blots.
The graphics in Zen Bound 2 are nothing short of jaw-dropping. The level menu is disguised as a beautiful tree, decorated with Asian lanterns and wooden ornaments depicting the objects to be wrapped. The lamps flicker as you navigate the screen, and everything sways delightfully back and forth. Once in the game, the objects themselves are artfully lit, and look like they were carved from blocks of fine wood and the cord is so realistic it gives me rope splinters just looking at it. If you're looking for a game to show off your iPad or iPhone 4, you would be hard-pressed to find a better one.
The sound effects of Zen Bound 2 are subtle, and beautifully sampled. From the sound of the rope stretching, to the auditory clues that you have reached a level goal, this game oozes ambience. To top it off, the eerily beautiful 45 minute soundtrack serves to completely immerse you in the gameplay.
Zen Bound 2 is on my short-list of titles that I consider a "must buy." It's wholly original gameplay, coupled with extraordinary graphics and sound, set it apart from everything else on the app store. Its low price-point and the fact that it's a universal app (runs at full resolution on iPhone/iPod, iPhone 4, and iPad), make this an excellent value; even if you just want it to show off your new iPad.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5): 5
Graphics: - 5 - You won?t find a better app to showcase your iPad?s graphic capabilities than Zen Bound 2. Nothing short of amazing. Sound: - 5 - Beautiful, yet subtle use of sound effects, and the soundtrack suits the game perfectly. Controls: - 5 - Intuitive and responsive controls. If you can?t beat a level it won?t be because the interface got in your way. Gameplay: - 5 - Unlike anything else. You wrap a 3D object with a rope. Sound boring/easy? It?s not.
Playing Hints and Tips:
There is no penalty for taking your time. Slow down and experiment with the interface, and take some time to get used to how the game components interact. If you want to go for the achievements that were made available with the latest update, you will need to reset your progress and start over.