Yet popular for decades now, it is only today that Ghibli’s graphic universe regularly inhabits video game productions in the independent sphere. Obviously, Ori and the Blind Forest and its sequel are no strangers to this turnaround; their respective successes in spite of themselves mapped out the way forward. After the recent Hoa or the mysterious Planet of Lana, it’s Unbound: Worlds Apart’s turn to take inspiration from the two creations of Moon Studios. Does Metroidvania (exploration, platforms and open world) live up to its mentors? This is what we will see!
The magic happens …
In Unbound: Worlds Apart, it is not a small, luminous furball that the player embodies, but Soli, a young mage wearing a beautiful red hooded robe. This last, initially driven by the desire to catch up with a strange slender creature, finally comes face to face with monstrous beings with huge, gaunt legs somewhat reminiscent of Limbo’s graphic imagination. These monsters escape from a dimensional portal opened by the evil Arawen who intends to invade the charming and verdant world of Soli, Vaiya.
Just like the big bad Arawen, Soli has the power to move from one world to another with the snap of a finger. That’s good, since the entire first part of the game is based on this little feature reminiscent of the gameplay of HUE which, remember, allows you to juggle the colors of a chromatic circle to make different platforms appear (or disappear). Here, then, the player, initially evolving in colorful and idyllic-looking 2D environments once again reminiscent of Ghibli’s creations, can, with a simple touch, open a portal giving directly to the underworld. But in addition to spawning new platforms, this nicely updated game mechanic also transforms gentle butterflies into ferocious and deadly beasts and little spiders into gigantic spooky creatures. In this dimension, the player must then redouble his vigilance if he does not want to die repeatedly … You have understood it, despite a colorful style and a childish universe, Unbound: Worlds Apart is not for everyone. From the beginning of the adventure, the title of Alien Pixel Studios puts our hooded hero in the face of devious situations and multiple traps that must be mastered with skill to move forward. Fortunately, the title, always fascinating, at least in its first part, is in no way punitive. Death is only a necessary step to understand the different phases and other puzzles, while the checkpoints, always well placed, are never far away.
Switching from one world to another has a small effect at the beginning and gives players another way of approaching the world around it, both in a fun way and visually. The puzzles, although not difficult to solve, are mostly successful. Over the course of the adventure, they bring new ideas in order to vary the approaches. If at first opening a portal simply gives access to new boards and other stepping stones, later this system allows you to light up dark caves, transform your character into a block of stone and even reverse the poles, ideal for being able to progress on a ceiling, make the crates twirl in the air or cross a gigantic abyss. Then there is the rest …
Metroidvania are you there?
If above all, Unbound: Worlds Apart is a more or less linear platform and puzzle game, quickly, the title offers itself here and there a few snippets of the Metroidvania genre. Our hero therefore gains in skills (double jumps, dash, double dash, rebounds) thus allowing players to backtrack and discover new passages that were previously inaccessible. They invite you to meet some seasoned mages who do not hesitate to tell their stories.
Unbound Worlds Apart: We travel the first 10 minutes of this magical journey
… but turns out to be ephemeral
As we have already specified in our insert above, Soli gains in skill as the player progresses. And if one is delighted to be able to perform double jumps, subsequently, obtaining the other abilities, namely rebounds, dash and double dash, breaks the general level-design of the title by greatly simplifying the progression. The different puzzles then lose their charm by becoming less intuitive, but also less inventive. Thus, the player ends up repeating wearily what he has already experienced the first hours while participating in small events that are sorely lacking in genius. It is also when the player unlocks these many skills that he also faces the first collision issues, which quickly becomes frustrating. Our mage, with his gigantic hood, then does not stop touching the hostile elements of the decor, which, of course, results in his death. Fortunately, as we said above, save points are never far away.
The lack of inspiration of this second part also appears in the visual aspect of the title. If at the beginning the world of Unbound: Worlds Apart is enchanting by revealing green or desert areas full of charm, the end is much less interesting. It displays more sinister environments, but above all less inspired, reminiscent of the deliberately loathsome production Struggling: sharp teeth line the walls, increasingly misshapen and bloody opponents appear, and slimy forms cling to the ceiling.
All the same, let’s end on a positive note. Unbound: Worlds Apart is served with a soundtrack that fits perfectly to the universe thanks to melodies sometimes relaxing, sometimes dramatic or through lively tribal orchestrations. Pianos, violins, cymbals, tom-toms and crystalline songs, all these instruments unite and effectively punctuate this little adventure which ends at 100% in just under ten hours.
- A pleasant adventure with a variety of approaches
- A soundtrack that effectively punctuates the proposal
- Always well placed checkpoints
- Pretty visuals …
- … which lose their charm as the player progresses
- Collisions that are sometimes a problem
- A final fight that lacks fishing
- A less interesting second part
Inspired by the greatest, Limbo and Ori and the Blind Forest to name a few, Unbound: Worlds Apart delivers a fun adventure that will keep you busy for a weekend. In particular, it offers small puzzles as well as various platform phases that are pleasant to navigate, at least initially. The rest is much less inspired, the fault of an artistic direction less and less convincing and a level-design incompatible with the different skills that Soli, our hero, accumulates as he progresses.
What readers say (2)
Read readers’ reviewsGive your opinion on the game!
Through Jeromejoffard, Writing jeuxvideo.com