Alien Pixel Studios’ Unbound: Worlds Apart is one damn fine-looking side-scroller. Of course, looks aren’t everything. Question is, does this title have substance? In short, yes, and it’s well worth a try — certainly so on the Switch.
Set in the fantasy world of Vaiya, our hero, Soli, encounters a creature that appears via a portal from another dimension. Before he finds out its backstory, he finds his fellow hooded spellcasters gathered to purify a crystal that powers their Magic Gate. However, it unleashes a great evil instead, which throws everything into chaos. With his newly-found ability, Soli sets off to seek help from a powerful guardian in order to save his home and his fellow spellcasters.
Unbound: Worlds Apart is nothing short of gorgeous. Its cutscenes are such a joy to watch and are beautifully animated — all of it is hand-drawn, too. Even during the gameplay, it’s a real looker. Background environments are beautifully designed, the soundtrack is atmospheric, and the character designs are distinctive and memorable. Plus, the performance of the port on the Switch is certainly up to snuff, running at a consistent and stable 30 frames-per-second.
Of course, pretty-looking side-scrollers with impressive production values like this one are bound to come with some kind of recurring gameplay feature or gimmick that it pivots itself on. Here, in Unbound: Worlds Apart, Soli can create a portal to alternate dimensions. It may reveal platforms, enemies or traps that don’t exist in the normal world. For instance, activating it near a stone blockade may male it disappear, thus allowing you to pass through, but harmless creatures that enter the portal may be huge, horrid creatures in the other universe, and will consequently chase you down. Some dimensions may alter things like gravity, but the portal ability can be upgraded as you progress as well, thus furthering its usefulness.
Naturally, you’ll need to put this ability to good use with some well-timed, thoughtful placements, and, on the whole, it’s a well-implemented feature that adds some interesting twists without making it too tricky. The platforming on its own is pretty basic and no-frills, but is perfectly functional and controls well without any issues. Thanks to the very generous amount of checkpoints, dying is but a minor setback. It never feels cheap when it does happen, as it’s clearly a polished product.
Being a Metroidvania, the areas you explore are vast and expansive. Your map will no doubt come in handy, and so will the many conveniently-placed fast-travel points. Waypoints for the various quests that you can tackle can be found here as well. Again, all of these things are exceptional, so the game does a great job at trying to avoid being frustrating.There aren’t really any reasons to revisit areas, barring collectibles, but the level design is still creatively designed without too much bloat.
Sounds like a load of positives all around, doesn’t it? So, where does it fall flat? Nowhere, in honesty, but it’s not completely perfect. It’s one of those games that feels like it needs to be experienced for the ride and the adventure, not for a challenge or difficulty (unless tedious collectibles are what tickles you pink). Besides that, there isn’t much else in terms of its gameplay, barring the portal ability, which is still a thoughtful and well-implemented feature. Aside from that, it pretty much plays like any other artsy sidescroller.
Nevertheless, if games like that are your thing (think Ori and the Blind Forest, that’s my best go-to comparison off the top of my head), then Unbound: Worlds Apart is bound to please. This is a solid Metroidvania that looks beautiful, and proves to be an accessible and enjoyable experience.
Review code supplied by developers.