Any regular readers of Geeky Hobbies will likely know that I am a huge fan of puzzle platformers. The genre honestly might be my favorite as I really enjoy both puzzle games and platformers. Because of my love of the genre, I have played a lot of games from it in the past with various twists impacting how you platform and solve puzzles. Today I am looking at Unbound: Worlds Apart which released last week. Outside of being a puzzle platformer which I generally love, I was intrigued by the whole portal mechanic as it looked like it added some interesting possibilities to the game. Unbound: Worlds Apart is a fun and engaging puzzle platformer with a unique twist on the typical game from the genre.
In Unbound: Worlds Apart you play as Soli, a young mage. The game takes place in a universe where every world is connected to one another through portals. Soli has the ability to open portals between worlds to take advantage of the unique qualities of each. Soli’s world is put into danger when an evil force breaches Soli’s world through a portal destroying everything that gets in the way. Can Soli gather the strength to stop the evil threat before it is too late?
At its core Unbound: Worlds Apart is a puzzle platformer mixed with some elements of a Metroidvania. The basic goal of the game is to get from location to location avoiding the dangers that block your way. This is mostly done through platforming as you are initially given a single jump and you unlock additional abilities such as a dash and wall jumps as you progress through the game. You use these abilities to reach various objects which you need to use to progress in your adventure. As you acquire additional abilities you sometimes have to visit past locations in order to reach areas that you previously weren’t able to reach.
At this point the game may sound like every other puzzle platformer. The thing that distinguishes Unbound: Worlds Apart though is the fact that you can open up portals and take advantage of the special properties of other worlds. There are sections of the map where you can’t open up portals, but most of the world is separated into different sections with each section opening up a portal to a different world. Each of these worlds gives your portal a different power. Some of these powers include time manipulation, inverting gravity, super strength, and even shrinking your size. You will use an area’s portal ability along with your other normal abilities in order to complete platforming challenges and solve puzzles.
On the surface Unbound: Worlds Apart might seem a lot like your typical puzzle platformer. The game has no combat so you are basically just jumping around avoiding dangers and getting across gaps with your platforming abilities. Even a lot of the portal abilities have been utilized in other platforming games. There have been a number of platformers where you can manipulate the gravity or the passage of time with the press of a button. If you look at the individual pieces Unbound: Worlds Apart may not look all that different from other games from the genre. The game would still be quite fun, but it might not be a particularly new experience for those that play a lot of games from this genre.
What really makes Unbound: Worlds Apart stand out is the implementation of the portal mechanic. A lot of puzzle platformers may have one twist on your typical platformer such as manipulating gravity. Unbound: Worlds Apart basically gives you all of these twists in the same game and yet it still works really well due to each section of the world giving you access to a different type of portal. For example in one section you might be able to manipulate gravity and in the next the game lets you stop time. You only have access to one of these abilities at a time, but as you progress in the game you start to switch back and forth between them regularly. This is especially true for the end of the game.
This illustrates how Unbound: Worlds Apart’s level design works so well. I will admit that I didn’t find the game’s puzzles to be all that challenging as it is usually pretty obvious what you need to do in order to progress in the game. The level/puzzle design is so good though because the game does a great job thinking of interesting ways of using the various portal mechanics. The level design is clever as it comes up with enough different ways of using the mechanics where the gameplay avoids becoming repetitive. Normally I am not a huge fan of Metroidvania mechanics as I don’t like backtracking. The game handles this well though as it is usually pretty obvious what areas you have to return to at a future time and the game features enough fast travel locations that you don’t have to backtrack too much to get to any location. Puzzle platformers generally live or die based on their level design, and Unbound: Worlds Apart excels in this area.
Usually it is pretty easy to place a game on the difficulty curve. This is not such an easy task for Unbound: Worlds Apart. The main reason for this is that the difficulty actually changes quite a bit throughout the game. I found the beginning of the game to actually be pretty easy. The early parts of the game mostly teach you how the different types of portals work so the game’s early sections are more of an interactive tutorial. Instead of telling you what to do, the puzzle design is simple enough where you can figure it out easily on your own. Anyone familiar with puzzle platformers shouldn’t really have too much trouble with at least the first half of the game.
Unbound: Worlds Apart hits a point though where the difficulty ramps up quite a bit. The difficulty increases at a fair rate where it doesn’t suddenly go from really easy to really hard. As you become more familiar with the various types of portals, the game gives you harder challenges to complete. In many cases this makes the game rely on some trial and error. It is usually not that hard to figure out what you are supposed to do, but successfully pulling it off requires good timing which leads to some failures until you get it right. Unless you are an expert at these type of games, expect to die a decent amount before you are able to complete some of these sections. The final section of the game in particular can be quite difficult. A couple of these sections can be a little frustrating, but the game mostly avoids this by including plenty of checkpoints where you don’t lose much progress when you fail.
Generally speaking I would say that the difficulty feels fair. The game will definitely challenge you, but if you have enough patience to keep trying a section you should eventually make progress. If you are looking for an easy platformer the game may not be for you though. On the other end those looking for a challenge should be happy with Unbound: Worlds Apart. On top of the game becoming more challenging as you progress, the game has quite a few optional areas that you can explore in order to find hidden characters. If you find all of them throughout the game it will change the ending. These sections of the game are totally optional, but they are also some of the most challenging as you need precise jumping and use of your portals in order to reach your destination.
Unbound: Worlds Apart succeeds because the gameplay is really fun. The atmosphere and overall theme are quite good as well though. The game is in 2D but the visuals are pretty impressive. The character design is well done and the world in general is interesting to look at. The game’s story and world are well designed as well. In a way the story is not the most original, but I still found it to be pretty good where I wanted to see how it would end.
As for the game’s length it will somewhat depend on what type of player that you are. How much time you get out of the game is going to depend on how much you explore and attempt the optional challenges. The optional challenges are the hardest parts of the game so they can add a decent amount of time to the game if you actively try to complete all of them. Because of this and how good you are at puzzle platformers in general, how much time you get out of the game is going to somewhat depend. I would guess that the game will take most players around 5-8 hours to complete. How the last section of the game mixed together all of the mechanics so well, I wish it was longer as I would have liked to see what else the game could have done. The actual length of the game is not bad though.
Ultimately I enjoyed Unbound: Worlds Apart. On the surface it may seem a lot like your typical puzzle platformer as it does share a lot of the same elements. What differentiates the game from others in the genre though is the portal mechanic where different sections of the world give you different ways of manipulating the world around you. Instead of having just one tweak to your typical puzzle platformer, the game includes quite a few different tweaks. This combined with the level/puzzle design leads to a game that is really enjoyable. The game’s difficulty swings from pretty easy to quite hard as it can rely on quite a bit of trial and error at times. The game generally feels fair though where you just need some practice in order to beat some of the sections. On top of the gameplay the overall atmosphere and theme are quite good as well.
Basically my recommendation for Unbound: Worlds Apart comes down to your general feeling towards puzzle platformers. If you have never really cared for the genre, I don’t see the game changing your mind. Fans of the genre though should enjoy Unbound: Worlds Apart and should consider picking it up.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Alien Pixel Studios for the review copy of Unbound: Worlds Apart used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.