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Review: Unbound: Worlds Apart Is a Puzzle Platformer with a Side of Metroidvania

Screenshot: Unbound: Worlds Apart

I’ve played a lot of platformers and puzzle platformers over the years—and while I definitely got sick of platformers when I was younger, I’ve been finding myself craving a good platformer here and there as I get older.

Unbound: Worlds Apart is a puzzle platformer with some elements that make it a little bit like a metroidvania.  In it, you play as Soli, a young hooded mage who is just learning new powers. Soli must use their array of new powers to navigate Unbound’s puzzle platforming. While Soli eventually gets the ability to double jump and dash—staples in most platformers—Soli’s most powerful ability is to open portals. These portals change the world around Soli, and even change how objects or creatures behave. These portals are area specific, so you aren’t equipped with an array of different portals—rather, your portals act differently based on where you’re at in the game. This means Unbound: Worlds Apart can have very different mechanics from one section to the next, though you do have a few abilities like dash and double jump that follow you through the game once you acquire them.

Screenshot: Unbound: Worlds Apart

While there are a fair number of enemies to encounter in Unbound: Worlds Apart, there is no combat. Instead, you’ll spend your time avoiding enemies, or handling them via the various portal mechanics. Some creatures are benign until they’re caught in the radius of the portal—then they’ll try to catch you with their jaws or spiky appendages. Soli is extremely easy to kill, as one hit will end their life. Luckily, dying doesn’t put you pack more than a few feet (usually) and you can continue where you left off without much penalty. And though there isn’t direct combat in Unbound, you can occasionally destroy enemies situationally—but most of your time will be spent avoiding them.

Since Unbound: Worlds Apart is a platformer, there is a lot of jumping. It’s important for a platforming game to feel good to play—and this one does a good enough job of it. Some of the tighter jumps seem difficult in ways that don’t always feel fair, but with the ability to respawn quickly, even making multiple mistakes doesn’t feel too punishing. As for its varied portal mechanics, they’re okay—but nothing incredibly groundbreaking. While games have long allowed players to shift between two worlds (usually light and dark themed) Unbound doesn’t shift the entire screen, just the area within the portal—but it has similar affect in some cases. This allows for more versatile mechanics—like the ability to shift gravity between up and down quickly, or the ability to turn enemy projectiles into bubbles you can travel in.  It’s too bad that each of these special portal abilities are confined to certain areas, because it limits how much Unbound works like a metroidvania.

Screenshot: Unbound: Worlds Apart

Unbound: Worlds Apart  is technically a metroidvania, but only just. One of the staples of that subgenre is exploring until you come across an obstacle and then later finding an item or ability that can overcome that obstacle, so you return to previous areas with your new ability to explore the new paths that open up. While Unbound does that, it’s to the barest minimum. Unbound is pretty linear, and with quest givers that specifically tell you where to go and what to do, rarely will you need to explore and experiment to find your way. There are still hidden nooks containing secrets to find, however, so exploration is encouraged. Unfortunately the level design is not very exciting—and while there are sparks of genius in both the levels and the mechanics, overall there is nothing spectacular.

I played Unbound on Switch – and it works great on the handheld console hybrid—docked or undocked. Some games lose something when put into handheld mode, but that’s not the case here. Overall though, in docked and handheld mode, performance was sometimes an issue. Respawning after death took a few moments longer than I wish, which might not just be on the Switch version. But there were a few times when frame rates tanked for a moment or two. Nothing unplayable, however, as most of my time with Unbound: Worlds Apart was great.

Screenshot: Unbound: Worlds Apart

While Unbound: Worlds Apart doesn’t feature any groundbreaking gameplay, as a puzzle platformer it feels solid. You can definitely get lost in its beautiful art style, even if it doesn’t always have the most innovative scenarios. I do appreciate its approach to non-combat, however, with confrontations with enemies requiring either a clever bypass or twitch reflexes. And that is something Unbound: Worlds Apart does best: balances twitch platforming with interesting and challenging puzzles.

 

Unbound: Worlds Apart is available now for Windows via Steam, and on Nintendo Switch.

 

 

 

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