Zen Bound Review

Zen Bound ($4.99)

I have it admit, Zen Bound has a hold on me. After my first session playing it (probably about 2 hours straight) I found my perception of the world had changed. When I sat at the dinner table all I could think of was how to twist and turn it to wrap it with rope, and it didn’t stop there. In my minds eye I was wrapping living room furniture, my truck, and even the family dog.

What is it?
Zen Bound is a game where you wrap wooden objects in a limited amount of rope. The object of the game is to completely wrap the object with as little rope as possible.Where the rope touches the object it will paint it showing how much is covered. When you start the game there are 2 modes of play, the “Tree of Reflection” and the “Tree of Challenge.” In Reflection you get to wrap animal shaped objects, and in Challenge you get different geometrically challenging shapes to wrap.

zb_screen_08The controls are simple and intuitive. Simply use your finger to rotate the object. Use two fingers to spin it. if you need to move the angle of the rope just tilt the phone left or right. The objects move exactly like you expect them to. Controlling the object and moving the rope in this way just feels natural.

The challenge in this game is not provided by timers, or bad guys, or impending doom. Instead you get to take your time moving the object around wrapping it with rope. Each object is easy or hard based on it’s size and shape. Objects with a lot of protruding parts can get in the way of the direction you want the rope to go. Also valleys and curves can provide a challenge because you have to make sure you get rope touching the right places to paint everything.  So relax, study your object, move it around and have a good time. As it says in the game:

“Zen Bound is a game about slowing down and letting things happen at their own pace. Your goal is to paint wooden sculptures by wrapping them with rope.”

On each tree there are 3 blossoms that represent the level of completion for each object, minimum, medium, and maximum. So you can progress quite far with just wrapping at the minimum level or you can play the objects over and over again until you reach maximum.

zb_screen_01What is so great about Zen Bound?
Let’s take this one step at a time. First of all when you load up the game, use headphones. The sound track in Zen Bound is amazing. During the game feel free to just pause to listen to the music. You will be taken The music itself will take you on a meditative journey as you hear deep groans & creaks, soft bells, and crisp clicks and rolls. High end headphones will let you listen to the full symphony, but even with apple’s stock ear-buds the music is transcendent.

The graphics are extremely detailed without losing any frame rate. The lighting is perfect, everything in the game seems to be lit by Japanese lanterns and the effect is soft and moody. Even while working with the puzzle if you tilt the screen your light source moves as indicated by the shifting shadow. The wooden sculptures are simple, but beautiful. There are various textures used in the game from wood, to stone, and metal, and they are all detailed and gorgeous. Zen Bound is one of the most visually stunning games in the app store now.

Despite the incredible graphics and sound the game by itself is extremely immersive. You explore the sculpted objects as you rotate and spin the rope around. The controls are so intuitive you don’t even think about it as you wrap the rope around. Shifting the shape as you tilt and turn for the best angle, wrapping and re-wrapping, letting the rope slide or moving quickly so it sticks you will be mesmerized as you try and complete the task. If I had to put it in one word, it’s addicting.

Okay, let’s get to what you are waiting for, let’s break it down:

zb_screen_03Graphics and Presentation
The little screen of the iPhone will fill your entire world when you start this game up. The visual experience is amazing.

You will hear chimes, bells, rope groans, skateboard sounds, and more all blended into beautiful and transformative music.

I have never been more addicted to a game since Tetris. This is one of the most immersive games ever, on any platform.

There is plenty of challenge and plenty of levels to complete. You can unlock lots of objects to wrap as you climb the tree, and there is a lot of enjoyment in re-wrapping the original simpler objects over and over again but with a device like the iPhone it’s hard to give 5 stars for gamelife unless the game has some kind of online content. I’m sure they will release more models and things in updates, but even if they don’t the game as is can give you many, many, hours of entertainment.

Zen Bound is the best game I have played for the iPhone so far, bar none. Currently it’s in my top 10 games of all time on any platform. Zen Bound is a premium game worth much more than the current $4.99 price, go buy it, now. You won’t be sorry.

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  • Alex Bratu

    This is less a review, and more an advertisement. You don’t mention any of the pitfalls to playing this game like if you touch the end nail with a rope by mistake, the level ends before you finish. This article reads more like a list of features ripped off their site.

  • Nacho

    Thanks for your feedback, but I didn’t find that to be a pitfall at all. As part of the challenge when starting out I try to do the end nail part first so that I can wrap it up cleanly when I am ready.

    I understand why you might feel like this is an advertisement, but I just loved their game. I tried to convey my excitement for the game, and express how good I feel it is.

  • ripardi

    Personally, I agree 100% with Nacho on the nail issue. I don’t really get it why so many people automatically take it as a flaw in the game design as to me it is a part of the gameplay challenge. It’s like claiming there’s a pitfall in a FPS as you die to enemy bullets or in a platformer when you fall down the edge… Well, maybe not, but you get the idea. I hope that Secret Exit won’t ‘fix’ this ‘issue’ under the audience pressure :)

  • tnology

    Great game, they definately have found the Zen of iphone gaming with this one.
    How come your menu has a third tree? tree of Nostalgia? my version doesn’t have that?

  • Nacho

    Ah, young padawan. Check your help screen. It says when the challenge tree is complete, everything will change.

  • Jay

    wow i want this game now.

    p.s. – it seems that Nacho and I have a similar taste in games, I seem to like all the games that Nacho has spoken highly of

  • barstep

    Just downloaded the game and climbed the tree a little. I dislike competitive games, but this one which challenges my own skills in such a gentle way is compelling.
    The graphics are first class, the music mesmerising, sound fx convincing and gameplay addictive.
    I did find one little bug on the early level with the bear. I ran out of string and couldn’t reach the nail to finish the level. As I unravelled the string it had snagged (graphically it passed through the bear’s chin) and I was unable to unravel any further. It may, of course, not be a bug – it may be part of the gameplay in which case keep any eye on the length of string you may not be able to wind back as far as you think.


    whoa! this is one of the very few games that have gotten 5 stars on this site. i will definetly buy this. in fact by the time anyone reads this i will be playing the game!

  • iPGn-Dave

    Look forward to in depth discussion on this game in the this weeks podcast, we are going to dig deep, reallllly deep.