The Latest

String King- Zen Bound Review

I’m not
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.

The
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.

The
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.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

28 comments

  1. I liked the review, but there are way too many great 99cent apps.

  2. Ok, so the iphone is the new gaming platform of choice, huh?

  3. What does this game have to do with Buddhism? You would call Mario Bros. ‘Jewish Bros.”

  4. I was just looking at this game. I think Joystiq gave it game of the week.

  5. Well, no ’cause their Italian plumbers.

  6. Sounds very relaxing. Glad to see the controls are good.

  7. Let me know if it ever goes on sale.

  8. Wheres the publisher developer info that is usually with games?

  9. Nice graphics.

  10. You should change your name to iphonereviews.com

    Enough already.

  11. Any unlockable anime girls to tie up?

  12. Cool. Good review.

  13. Pixeljunk games are one of my favorites.

  14. How long on average does it take to complete a level?

  15. For some crazy reason, I only enjoy casual games on the iphone. Maybe because it doesn’t have a standard set of controls.

    I’ll be checking this one out.

  16. What are the animals in the screenshot for? Some kind of level select?

  17. Bondage? On an iPhone ???

  18. Actually, I’m think of getting an iphone. So keep them coming.

  19. Sounds fun, is there a ‘lite’ version?

  20. You know what Apple needs? A way to obtain and show off achievements. Deagle and TideGear can you tell Steve Jobs for me, and just send me the check, mkay?

  21. Can you turn the sound off or listen to your own music while playing? I like when apps let you do that.

  22. So much better than the last S-E 360 games!

  23. Thanks for the review. I am happy that the controls are easy.

  24. Thanks for the review 🙂

  25. some crazy reason, I only enjoy casual games on the iphone. Maybe because it doesn’t have a standard set of controls.
    Schoenhut Elite Spinet Piano

  26. A way to obtain and show off achievements. Deagle and TideGear can you tell Steve Jobs for me, and just send me the check, mkay?Los Angeles Search Engine Optimization

  27. Nice article. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your articles. Anyway I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.