How many times have you played a game where everything is lovely and dandy at the start, wandering around, talking to people and taking in the sunshine when suddenly everything changes. BANG, your village is burning to the ground, you are the only survivor and it’s left to you to go out into the world on a quest to seek revenge and rid all evil from the land. It’s a tale as old as time, but it’s this which Unbound: Worlds Apart uses to lure you in. But in reality – at heart – this is a clever platformer with some very neat tricks up its sleeve.
You start Unbound: Worlds Apart in a picturesque fantasy-land village, playing the part of Soli; a sort of robed Jawa-like magician who would fit right at home in a Final Fantasy game. At the start he opens a portal where he sees a magical cat-like beast which he follows. You find out that the village used to open portals to strange new worlds all the time using powerful crystals. But ever since Soli was alive the portals and gates to new worlds have been closed. Tonight there is a ritual and, of course, it all goes wrong and hell is unleashed. You find yourself underground, in a deep cavern and then the game begins in earnest.
I like the way that the story of Unbound plays some old tunes, but manages to deliver them in a new and fascinating way. There are little cutscenes that give an idea of the narrative and along the way you meet villagers who have been thrown to all corners. It’s here where you get snippets of the story from them.
Gameplay-wise it’s a platformer at heart, but our little wizard friend has the power to use portals and it is in that which makes this experience different from the rest of these types of games. The portals work at the touch of a button, highlighted by a small circle in place around Soli; in that circle, the environment changes as you move. So for example, if you have an area covered in water and it’s impossible to get over it, you go into the portal world, and the environment changes to one without water. In other worlds, there could be platforms where they didn’t exist before. Or creatures that will kill you in one world but turn into bouncy platforms in another world for you to jump on.
Later on, you get other skills to use with your portals. Like the ability to have light thrust into the deepest darkness, but in order for it to be of use you have to stand still for the light to radiate, it only starts to dissipate when you start moving. Then there is the portal that changes gravity; up becomes down. What you have to learn to do with these skills is how to incorporate them smoothly while traversing the levels and platforms. You’ll be having to switch quickly between the different worlds in order to progress further into the later levels.
As you get a bit further into the game the map branches out with different possibilities and goals to achieve. It reminds of Ori and the Blind Forest in that regard. There are secrets to find and areas will unlock if you return there later on. However, Worlds Apart has a difficulty level that can seem a bit high, yet at all times this is fair and that’s thanks to the very generous checkpoint system on offer. You never feel frustrated, even towards the end where it gets ever so tricky.
This is a stunning-looking game with amazing visuals. The use of hand-painted backdrops along with an amazing creature design makes Unbound: Worlds Apart a very gorgeous game indeed. But it’s also extremely clever, working the use of the portals, flipping between two different worlds at the same time; harmless flies become terrifying winged nightmares with a touch of a button. The lovely painted cutscenes are a delight too, as is the overall look of the game. Music-wise the soundtrack hits all the right notes in terms of atmosphere and tension throughout, whilst the sound effects – including drips in the caves and scuttering of creatures – are nothing but top-notch.
For platform fans, Unbound: Worlds Apart will be a delight. It’s a challenging game, but completely fair and with some well-worked checkpointing that ensures that dying is not a pain. It’s inventive as well, with the use of portals helping your puzzle-solving and way through the adventure. Completionists will have every reason to go back and try to get all the secrets in the hard-to-reach places and it all comes together to ensure that this is a great little platformer, with a five-to-six hour running time and some world-building which is a delight.
Unbound: Worlds Apart is present on the Xbox Store
- Lovely visuals
- Inventive gameplay
- Neat checkpointing
- Tough in places
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Digerati
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC, Switch, PS4, PS5
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 11 Feb 2022
- Launch price from - £16.74