It’s a relaxing zen puzzle game again!

Puzzles in Zen Bound 2 take the form of simple (or not so simple) 3D wooden shapes. Each shape had two (or more) nails sticking out of it, and tied to each nails is a rope. The goal is to manipulate the rope to tied up the model as completely as possible, and in doing so, change the colour of the model.

I don't always bind my elephant, but when I do he turns medium sea green (#3CB371)!

Changing the colour of the model is done in one of three ways, depending on the puzzle, and there isn’t a paint pod in sight! In some puzzles the model colour changes simply by having the rope close to the shape. In other puzzles the rope had colour bombs set at intervals, that explode on contact with the model. The final method involves exploding colour bombs that are attached to nails sticking out of the model.

What I find interesting about zen bound 2 is the priorities of the developers. Zen bound 2 requires a graphics card that can deal with shader model 2.0. That stipulation whilst to some extent limiting the market says something about the importance of having beautiful graphics in the game. The models are extremely well realised. They have a very natural, realistic feel to them and the rope feels like there is a significant weight dragging down on it. I also suspect that the core game mechanic that dynamically changes the material properties relies on the use of fragment (pixel) shaders.

Although Zen Bound 2 is another relaxing puzzle game, somehow this one is a little more frustrating and a little less relaxing than zen puzzle garden. Don’t get me wrong. I love this game and the frustration is only a minor gripe. Completing a puzzle for the bronze “one flower” award is usually fairly trivial, but in order to complete the puzzles as best you can (for three flowers) you have to carefully plan how you’re going to wrap up your model. Often I found myself wanting to perform quite delicate manipulations to the model and the rope, and it was difficult with the limited mouse based control system on the PC. It’s only a minor problem, but it goes against the zen grain. It feels like this game should be about relaxing, thinking and experimenting freely, and the control system limits my capability to do that. Having said that, it seems the game was originally intended for multi-touch devices with tilt sensors, so perhaps I should try it out on an iPad before drawing any definitive conclusions.

Despite my minor niggle Zen Bound 2 is still a well executing and satisfying game that I would recommend to anyone who finds it the slightest bit intriguing and might fancy a break from decapitating zombies, but I am aware that the bias towards Zen games is portraying me as a bit of a hippy. I promise the next game I mention will have some killing in it!

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