A king that takes pleasure in punching his guards in the nads, a town of friendly neighborhood zombies, and a dragon named Steve. These are just a few things that await four toddlers on their magical journey into the world of Bonded Realities.
Bonded Realities, now available on Xbox Live Indie Games, is a Role Playing game that hearkens back to the days of the NES and Super NES. Reminiscent of the classic RPG Earthbound, it's simple, yet well done graphics and battle system are only part of what makes this game so great.
Your adventure begins as your mother drops you off at E.Z. Childcare Centre. You meet up with your friends Liam, Josh, and Maria in the Sandbox. All of the sudden, you hear a rumble, the ground shakes, and there's a bright light. When you awake, you aren't yourself and your friends are nowhere to be seen. As you set off to find your friends, your adventure, and quite a bit of hilarity ensues.
The premise of the game is pretty simple. Find your friends, rescue the maiden, and defeat the villain, with a few quirks and twists to boot. Very often, the game dialogue will poke fun at some of the classic faux pas that you encounter in Role Playing games. For example, in one town you encounter a citizen whose only dialogue is: "I will only say this sentence over and over to everyone who speaks to me." Also, there are certain hints that a boss battle may be near and that perhaps you should save. Nothing spells subtle like a skeleton lying against a wall with the word "SAVE" written in blood above it.
Puzzles and side quests are a staple to every good Role Playing game; and this game has a decent amount of both. There are 32 treasure chests in the entire game, and as Michael Ventnor hinted in my Q&A with him last week, "some of them
are very well hidden (but contain very powerful items and equipment!)". I've gotten about six hours into my game, and so far I've found twenty-three of them. Well hidden indeed!
Graphics and Sound
Bonded Realities is an exceptionally well done game all around. With the sprites, towns and backgrounds all having that cartoonish hand-drawn look to them, it really instills a lot of charm into the game. From the forests to the cities and the castles, the simplicity of the environments speaks true to the older 8 and 16-bit generation Role Playing games while still being easy on the eyes and not having to look at blocky ambiguous blobs of characters.
The music in the game is quite enjoyable as well. Different pieces play in different environments adding greatly to the mood of the game. During battles, the music is upbeat and energetic, whereasthe more melancholic music can be heard in the dungeons and creepy forests. The music is all electronically done and has a similar feel and vibe to the classic RPG predecessors, but is more modernized and sounds phenomenal in a modern day sound setup.
Bonded Realities takes a lot of queues from Earthbound and earlier RPGs, which were considered by some to be "button mashers" as they only required one or two extra buttons to play aside from the directional control through the analog stick or the D-Pad. You'll use your A button to confirm a command or to interact with an object; and the B button to cancel a command.
Very early on in the game you're also given a Smoke Ball, which when the Right trigger or shoulder button is pulled will cover you in a smoke that will prevent you from encountering the random battles that can occur outside of the towns. And while you think it might be an easy way to skate through the game, you'll very quickly find that if you use it too much, you won't have the stats needed to take on the bosses that you encounter throughout. You've been warned.
The game is also filled with some very amusing enemies. Among my favorites were the EyePhone, an old rotary telephone with a Cyclops' eye; the Semaphorus Rex, a dinosaur with semaphore flags; and the Pengeek, a penguin with a laptop, Coke bottle glasses, and plaid pants. Not only do they look hilarious, but their attacks are just as wild. I catch myself chuckling often at the descriptions when I see that "Pengeek stack overflowed on you", or when dying, the game announces that "Pengeek segfaulted". Just absolutely brilliant!
The menus to manage your characters, items and equipment are well thought out and easy to navigate as well. And equipping your characters is simple and easy to figure out what your best choice is. There's no guesswork involved with what you should use. The equipment is either better or not.
Xbox Live Indie Games is a wonderful concept that allows for anyone with a bit of coding experience to take a stab at getting their ideas out into something real. But for twenty games that you find on XBLIG, there are only one or two truly great games in the bunch. And of those one or two games, there is very rarely a true gem to be found. Bonded Realities is indeed a diamond in the rough.
You can choose to skate through to the final objective in the game, or take your time and really admire the thought and detail that went into this project. I myself chose the latter route and can tell you that you can spend a good six to eight hours going through the world looking for treasures to get your 100% completion.
When I go through a game and it starts to look like a perfect review, I start looking harder for any kind of quirk or glitch or anything that could attribute to a lower score. And I'm happy to say that I honestly cannot find one complaint about this game.
If you're a fan of the old school RPG, do yourself a favor and spend the 80 MS Points and buy what could actually be one of the best Role Playing Games on XBLIG.