There is a narrative these days that “games are too difficult”. While there are challenging titles out there, gamers are more blessed than ever with features and resources that help tackle the difficulty. I remember when games didn’t have any saves. All you had was your 3 lives and no matter how far you had advanced into a game, once those lives were gone it was truly Game Over. Unbound: Worlds Apart is the ultimate test of your platforming skills.
Unbound: Worlds Apart is a challenging precision platformer from Indie studio, Alien Pixel. The Romanian team has grown from 2 people at its inception to now having a core of 8 devs now working on this title. The game is available on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Playing as Soli, a young mage who feels he doesn’t quite fit in, you are thrust into the forefront when your village is decimated by a ruthless evil. Your adventure begins with the discovery that you have a special gift that allows you to open portals to other worlds. With these portals you can control the unique properties of each world, using them to your advantage as you journey to defeat this evil that is threatening to tear the universe apart.
The game offers up large maps to navigate and explore and while it’s not strictly a Metroidvania, there are some elements of the genre featured. There’s no HP – one hit and you’re dead, so prepare yourself to die a lot. Some extensive trial and error is needed at times to figure out and master the challenges put before you. I found myself at times taking a step back having to reassess my approach.
There are shades of Celeste, Limbo and Abe’s Oddysee here and it’s probably the closest you will get to playing Ori on PlayStation. The level design on show is excellent and the gameplay mechanics are masterfully designed. I’ll not spoil any of them here as they are best discovered and enjoyed while on the journey yourself.
The discovery of new abilities is nicely paced and allows you time to hone your skills with each. Before a new mechanic is introduced you will have enough experimentation to test your platforming prowess.
You will also meet a variety of alluring NPC’s along your journey. Some offer quests to open up new areas while others serve to expand the lore with their accounts of times passed. The story is deep with mysteries to uncover and I found myself intrigued to figure it all out.
While I enjoyed the lore and story, its delivery doesn’t quite match the heights of the epic gameplay. It’s a minor gripe however as the level design and fantastic gameplay mechanics more than makeup for this. Maybe some more cutscenes would help take the storytelling to the next level.
Graphics & Audio
Featuring beautiful hand-drawn art and detailed parallax backgrounds, Unbound: Worlds Apart looks stunning on PS5. There are an array of gorgeously designed friendly characters to meet and enemies/bosses to tackle.
The excellent somber soundtrack throughout really accentuates the dire mood within this world. Environmental sounds add to the depth of the areas you explore. I highly recommend using a headset while playing as I found it made the experience more immersive while also helping me to focus during the more challenging sections.
I did have 2 maybe 3 crashes during gameplay but thankfully my progress was safe and I was right back to platforming right where I’d left off.
There are lost villagers to find around the map, each one giving you a small snippet of the lore. Finding all of these will give you the full story of what’s going on. While a lot of these are fairly straightforward forward there are some that are quite tough and found sometimes in secret areas.
The longevity you garner from the game will be based upon your mastery of the mechanics and your tolerance for the repetitive frustrations of the punishing precision required to conquer.
For me, the sense of achievement upon beating a particularly difficult section was well worth the learning curve.
Unbound: Worlds Apart left me pleasantly surprised, featuring some of the most gloriously designed gameplay mechanics I’ve ever experienced in a game. It will hook you in with its finely balanced challenge and dares you to come back for more.
A masterclass in level design and gameplay mechanics, this is certainly one indie gem that should definitely be on your radar. I constantly marveled at the genius of some of the platforming puzzles. The team at Alien Pixel Studios should be very proud and I congratulate them for what they have achieved here.
I am delighted to present the coveted Thumb Culture Platinum Award to Unbound: Worlds Apart.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.