Put simply, Zen Bound is my new stress ball. It's a quiet day watching the cricket, it's making a warm hot chocolate on a cold day, it's slipping off your shoes after a hard day at the office. The premise is decidedly unique but not difficult to grasp; manoeuver a ball of rope around different wooden objects, using the iPhone to twist, spin and wrap the rope around the object covering as much surface area as possible.
Each level ends when you reach a certain percentage of surface area covered, and you can end the level on the easy, medium or hard percentages, depending on your perfectionst nature or lack thereof. You do this by severing the rope on a nail protruding from the object, a coarse way to end an otherwise perfectly subtle and calm gaming experience.
Despite its relaxed name and atmosphere, Zen Bound is not easy. There is a limited amount of rope available for each level, and considered thought is required to cover each object, as recklessly smothering the object rarely succeeds. Yes, tactlessly attacking the object with rope works a few times, but the later levels (and there are 51 in all) can get pretty challenging without measured decisions.
There are no time limits, high scores or bonus levels. Zen Bound is a new experience because it's so low key; it doesn't vie for your attention with bright lights and cheesy animations but rather quietly commands you to delve further and further into the understated fruits on offer. No time limits means there's plenty of room for experimentation, and I spent much time tinkering and toying trying to decide on the best way to get each object covered. Getting it right, as you can imagine, is extremely rewarding.
The app's graphics, whilst by no means mindblowing, are polished and robust. The level selection screen is a beauitful Japanese cherry tree with icons representing each level, an example of the stunning and consistent presentation that adorns every aspect of the game. Many of the wooden objects themselves range from plain to utterly ridiculous, but the surprise of 'what's next' is part of the charm.
The controls too are worth mentioning, as the game utilizes the iPhone's accelerometer, so not only can you spin the object with your fingers but you can also angle the rope by spinning the iPhone itself. It makes for some gratifying moments after trying relentlessly to twist the rope with your fingers, realising that actually turning the iPhone will allow you to complete the level. I'd like to see a PSP or DS do that.
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