Imagine being just a young child yet having the fate of the world resting on your shoulders.
In the world of videogames it isn’t too uncommon, is it? But it’s still a little bit silly. Especially so in Alien Pixel Studios’ Unbound: Worlds Apart, where, playing as a young mage names Soli, many of your elders just stand about doing nothing in the face of peril. “Go here!”, they say, “Get me these items!”. At times you want to turn around and yell at them, “You’re the adult, you do it!”. But of course, you can’t. There probably wouldn’t be a game otherwise, would there?
Admittedly though, Soli has a pretty nifty skill up his sleeve: the power to create portals. And if he wants to defeat the demon lord that has brought trouble to his world and others, he’s going to need to make ample use of it. With the simple press of a button a portal is created around our little hero, and depending on the magic-infused gate he’s passed through recently it will have various properties. It’s up to you to use those available properties to solve puzzles, negotiate platforms and thwart your enemies.
Placing you in a large interconnected world, Unbound: Worlds Apart first lets you loose with a portal that changes things around you. Pull up a portal and you might find that the obelisk in front of you, stopping you from progressing, simply disappears, or that a platform appears over a chasm you previously couldn’t cross. It’s simple stuff, but it’s an effective way to get you used to tapping the portal button to achieve your goal.
The further you progress into Unbound: Worlds Apart, however, the tougher the puzzles and environmental challenges become, and the portal properties get more complex. Eventually your portals can reverse gravity, give you super strength, and even slow down time. Needless to say, whenever a new portal is provided to you, it can take a little while to get used to its unique properties. Especially considering some of them aren’t explained to you, like turning enemy projectiles into bubbles you can travel within.
When it comes to enemies, you have to get creative when dealing with them. Soli isn’t a fighter, you see, and so has no way of directly attacking. Often, dealing with them is a case of using your portals to turn objects in the environment into weapons; an enemy that lays dormant until you open up a portal near them could be tricked into attacking another with the right timing, for example. Other times, getting them to chase you might be a good option, either luring them into a trap or a place where you can jump over them and make a run for it in the right direction.
Like many games of its ilk, Unbound: World Apart falls into the pitfall of progress often feeling it’s the result of trial and error, with isn’t hugely rewarding. You might make good progress for a while, then come up against a particularly challenging obstacle that you’ll die five, ten, or even more times to, until you achieve your objective. Generous checkpointing takes much of the sting out of it, but it can still be rather irritating at times.
Presenting in 2D with crisp, clean visuals but a fairly bland art style, Unbound: Worlds Apart has the air of a Metroidvania. In truth though, it’s fairly linear, with little reason to revisit areas once you’ve acquired new skills such as the double-jump and the ability climb walls. Perhaps the only reason you’ll return to some is to track down the fellow mages in need of your aid that you missed the first time around, as you’ll need to find them all to unlock the game’s true ending. Whether or not you’ll have the motivation to do so is questionable, however.
Unbound: Worlds Apart isn’t a bad game by any means, but after a few hours of play it simply begins to feel bland and a little repetitive. Your portal powers seem interesting at the outset, but chances are you’ll eventually get tired of using the same combination of them to overcome platforming challenges and to make your way past creepy arachnids and other oversized bugs unscathed. If you’re in the market for a challenging puzzle platformer there are worse out there, but you’re probably not going to remember your time with Unbound: Worlds Apart once you’re done with it.
Unbound: Worlds Apart Review: GameSpew’s Score