typically one for “casual games”. Often this name is used to describe
games that even a trained monkey could practically master. The saving
graces of casual gaming are innovation in basic gameplay/presentation
concepts and the prized title of “easy to learn, hard to master”. Zen Bound is a casual game that does those right.
Zen Bound is an indie iPhone/Touch puzzle game that actually has its roots in the demoscene as a freeware PC game called Zen Bondage.
The idea behind the gameplay is to wrap a single long piece of rope
around a 3 dimensional wooden figure. Anywhere the rope touches will
paint the figure within a certain radius, if the rope is removed the
paint will disappear. The goal is to wrap the rope evenly and
efficiently, so as to paint as much of the figure as possible using as
little rope possible. Backtracking or bridging gaps can waste precious
rope-length so effective wrapping is necessary. You must paint a
certain percentage of a figure to progress. The more you paint the more
flowers you’ll grow on the figure selection screens’ trees, allowing
you to choose from more figures.
The beauty of Zen Bound
is it manages to be a fun and challenging game where the only obstacle
is the limits of your own finesse and patience. There’s no time limit,
no lives, no enemies. There’s just you, some rope and a lot of wooden
figures that need painting. It makes for a relaxing game that manages
to be quite challenging as well. If you want to spend a while on a
figure and get a perfect 100%, go for it. If you don’t mind that 80%,
it’s ok. You can always come back to it. Zen Bound is a game
that encourages efficiency but only at the pace you see fit. While I
couldn’t find any evidence this game comes from an actual Buddhist
practice, I wouldn’t be surprised if it does or becomes one.
controls work surprising well. Tapping and dragging rotates the figure
as if its rolling away or toward you, tapping with two fingers spins
the figure like a roulette wheel, tilting and rotating the iPhone/Touch
adjusts the direction of the rope. It feels so intuitive that I quickly
discovered how to rotate the figures on multiple axes.
game is absolutely gorgeous to see on the iPhone/Touch. Almost
everything from the interface to the figure selection screen looks
Asian-inspired and aged yet beautiful. The figure selection screen
features a tree with lanterns and selectable figures hanging on it.
Tilting the iPhone/Touch makes them sway and hang realistically. As you
complete figures, more and more flowers will grow on the tree. It
creates a great vibe. The music adds to this with relaxing
Asian-inspired beats that are similar in style to the PixelJunk Eden
There’s a lot of figures
to wrap and paint in two different modes, “Tree of Reflection” and
“Tree of Challenge”, making for a total of 51 levels with some
significant replay value. The game also allows for playing in short or
long bursts with a robust automatic save system. The game is one of the
more expensive iPhone/Touch games at $4.99 but this is still a great
deal. You’ll want to spend hours playing Zen Bound, and luckily there’s enough content, challenge and fun to back it up.
soundtrack. The songs are free to download for all paying customers, as
well. The overall aural experience is wonderful as the music is
combined with the sound of the rope springing, plunking and stretching.
When starting the game you are greeted with the message, “Designed for
headphones.”, and they aren’t kidding.