Developer: Secret Exit, published by Chillingo
Price: $4.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★★
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★★
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★★

The premise of this game is pretty simple, bind up objects with rope. But, this is not an arcade game, there is no urgency to it. It’s a game that’s meant to torture you, slowly constricting your movements until you can’t take it any more. But, in a fun and challenging way!

All joking aside, this is a puzzle game, one of precision. Your goal in this game is to wrap a rope around a wooden object so that as much of the object as possible is covered. Some objects are simple, like a wooden block, other are much more complex and intricate. You start by selecting the object you want to wrap from the tree, objects are shown as tags hanging from the tree.

As the rope is wrapped around the object, the area near the rope is painted. This painted area shows the percentage of the item you have covered. Each object has a 1, 2, and 3 bell goal based on the percentage covered. These bells are represented on the level selection screen by 1, 2, or 3 cherry blossoms. You must gain enough blossoms on each section to pass up to the next group of objects — denoted by a lantern hanging in the tree with the required number of blossoms.

The uniqueness of this game does lend a little bit to the initial difficulty. That difficulty is fairly quickly overcome as you learn the controls and methods of play. Once you have that down, the game leads you to some rather complex objects as you progress further up the tree.

The controls in the game, like the concept for the game, are unique, but well done. There are three main aspects to the controls. First, you drag with a single finger to rotate the object and snag the rope on the corners and edges to wrap it. If you drag with two fingers, you can rotate the object. Rotating the phone changes the position from where the rope is fed. All three of the controls come in handy when trying to get the rope to wrap just the right way around an intricate object.

There are two main areas of the game, Tree of Reflection and Tree of Challenge. These together comprise the 51 unique levels/objects in the current game. A third tree, the Tree of Nostalgia will be added in March with an additional 25 levels. This upgrade will be a free upgrade. While there is some replay value with getting higher completion percentages, the levels do go by pretty quickly. The expansion will be a welcome addition when it is delivered.

Besides the fun, challenging, and honestly very unique gameplay, the thing that strikes me the most about this game is how amazingly beautiful it is. It’s a near perfect treat for the senses. From the fantastic textures and lighting of the objects, to the great sounds of the rope stretching, and an amazing soundtrack. It’s a joy to play.

Secret Exit have decided to include, with the purchase of Zen Bound, a free download of the soundtrack, composed by Ghost Monkey, in high quality MP3 (320 kbps) format. Info on how to get this is available in the game.

Take a look at the game play here. But as usual, don’t judge the graphic quality of the game by the horrible YouTube vide.

Zen Bound is also a finalist in the IGF Mobile Best iPhone Game and Audio Achievement categories.

Zen Bound is easy to recommend. It’s unique. It’s beautiful. It’s as easy to play for short periods of time or hours on end. Grab it now, it’s at a great introductory price of only $5.

Posted in: Games, iPhone Apps and Games, Reviews