Zen Bound 2
Gameplay 9
Graphics 9
Sound 9

Zen Bound 2 is a puzzle experience unlike any other I’ve had on computer so far. The graphics are gorgeous and the whole mood of the game fits the theme perfectly. While it might not look like much from the outside once you are hooked and aiming for that elusive 100% completion you’ll realize just how deep this game goes.

Gameplay: A calming breath of fresh air in a crowded market.
Graphics: So real you can almost touch it.
Sound: Soothing

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Zen Bound 2

Developer: Secret Exit Ltd. | Publisher: Secret Exit Ltd. |Release Date: 2010| Genre: Puzzle / Indie / Casual |Website: Official Website | Format: Download

The original Zen Bound was a puzzle game for touch-screen mobile devices; the premise was very unique & fairly simple.  The player is given a wooden sculpture with a length of rope tied to it. The goal is to wrap the rope around the object, “painting” all the areas the rope touches.  Once a certain percentage of the object is painted, the rope has to touch an endpoint indicated by a nail to finish the level. The official website describes it as a “meditative puzzle game” and I have to agree.

Graphics

What first drew me to this title (besides the unique game play concept) is the detailed graphics. Great pains have been taken to make the objects as realistic as possible with detailed, high resolution textures.  All the 3D objects look like you could really reach at and pluck them from the screen.  This attention to detail has been extended to the visual presentation of the game as well.

Gameplay

Levels are split up into “trees” with the objects you will be manipulating dangling as cardboard tags from the tree. Completing each stage rewards you, with flower blossoms appearing on the tree, up to a maximum of three per object.  Progress is made by moving up the tree, lighting paper lanterns along the way to open up the way to the top.  All in all a very immersive and soothing experience.  In total there are ten trees with more than a 100 levels in total to play through.

While only 74% of each object has to be “painted” in order to complete a level this will only open up one flower blossom on the tree.  Put in some extra effort to get 86% and you’ll open two blossoms.  For the completion of 99% you will get the maximum of three blossoms for the stage. There’s also a host of Steam achievements to aim for and most of these actually take some effort to achieve.

The objects all start out with fairly simple shapes to paint, but get progressively more complex.  Objects like a skateboard, guitar, airplane, zeppelin, snake and elephant all have to be wrapped in rope.As you can imagine, it is quite a task to fully wrap some of them. There’s also some variety with levels that feature “paint bombs”.  Instead of areas that the rope touch getting painted,  paint capsules are placed on pins that are struck into the object.  When the rope touches these, the immediate area around it will be painted, but if the rope slips off you will need to re-wrap it.  In another variation, the paint bombs are attached to the rope itself at certain intervals, which takes some extra planning to use effectively.

Since it is the object itself that rotates, and not the rope that can be directly manipulated, it is quite a job to wrap the more complex objects.  It can be a bit confusing as first and I can imagine it was more intuitive with touch screen controls, but after playing for a while it becomes easier. Careful planning is needed as it’s all too easy to run out of rope before the required paint percentage is reached. I would also often accidentally wrap the object in such a way that certain parts become impossible to wrap.  The nail that the rope has to touch to finish the level can also accidentally be made inaccessible if you are not careful.  Some lateral thinking is definitely a requirement.

Sound

To further compliment the calm “Zen” like atmosphere is a 45 minute soundtrack by Finnish artists, “Ghost Monkey”. The audio fits the game perfectly & really add to the experience.  The whole game is manipulated with the mouse & apart from an initial learning curve works very well.  It’s possible to become so involved in a game that you’ll be craning your neck to try and see what’s going on “behind” the object you are manipulating.

Conclusion

Considering the price and what you get for it, it’s very hard to fault Zen Bound 2.  All the stages from the original game are included so you are almost getting two games for your cash.  Zen Bound 2 is a completely different experience to what most gamers will be used to, but if you get into it you will be hooked all the way to the end.  I bought this game without ever having played the original, but honestly have no regrets about my purchase.

Review Written 2010/12/04
Original Steam Release

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP SP3 or later
  • Processor: 1.6+ GHz
  • Memory: 512 MB
  • Graphics: OpenGL 2.0 with shader model 3 required, ATI Radeon X1300 or better, Nvidia 6000-series or better
  • Hard Drive: 250 MB
  • OS: OS X version Leopard 10.5.8, Snow Leopard 10.6.3, or later.
  • Processor: Any Intel CPU
  • Memory: 512 MB
  • Graphics: Intel GMA 950 or better
  • Hard Drive: 250 MB
  • Controller: Multi-Touch trackpad or Magic Trackpad recommended

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