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Bound for PS4 proves ballet and adventure aren’t mutually exclusive

“A magical warrior springs into being, takes his first steps, and immediately meets a beautiful girl who asks him to go fight a giant rat monster.” This could be the tutorial level of just about any video game made in the last 30 years, but it’s also the story of the first act of The Nutcracker. Some people think ballet is nothing but prancing fairies in poofy dresses, but the stories behind the most famous ballets come from the darkest depths of European folklore. The dancing represents battles between evil wizards, bold heroes, magical monsters, and cursed princesses. Classical ballet is the perfect source material for video game adventures, and the upcoming game Bound uses ballet as both an aesthetic inspiration, and for its story.

The kingdom is under attack from a mysterious monster, and the Queen tasks her daughter with saving the land — with the power of dance! The main character in Bound is a pretty princess and, yeah, she prances, but that doesn’t mean this game is targeted toward preschool girls. The abstract art style and platform gameplay is targeted at grown-ups.

We tried a hands-on demo of the game at Indiecade East, and our skepticism faded away as we watched this nameless princess stride gracefully through the levels. The graphics are not intended to be photorealistic, but the character was masterfully motion-captured and beautiful to watch. Even her mundane actions like walking and standing idle had the eerie effect of looking like a real person dressed up as a work abstract art.

Most of the time she was navigating the paths of her kingdom with a sort of ballet parkour. She used her grand jetés to leap over pits, tumbled like a gymnast to traverse narrow beams, backflipped to vault up onto ledges, and even used a sort of dance combat.

The combat isn’t the kind of ballet-fu seen in West Side Story. When evil forces drew near, the princess could ward them off by performing freestyle dance. This was the weakest aspect of the demo we tried; it was difficult to tell what kind of dancing had a tangible effect on enemies and the environment, and what dancing was just there for the joy of making the character dance.

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Our brief demo only gave us a taste of the story and combat, but Bound is extremely promising. This is an unusual game that’s likely to glissade under the radar of many gamers, and it has the potential to become a cult hit. No release date has been set, but PlayStation 4 owners should keep an eye out for it when it eventually arrives.

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