Comparing one game to another can be illuminating, but it’s not helpful if you've never played the games in question. When it comes to Zen Bound however, the issue is more prosaic: there’s absolutely nothing you can compare it to. Only when it sits in your hands can you understand just how it transcends comparison.
But that’s what you’re here for, so I shall endeavour to put Zen Bound into words.
Zen Bound presents you with a series of carved wooden ornaments which need to be painted using a taut line of rope. Winding the rope around the ornament lays down the paint. The goal, naturally, is to cover the entire surface area of the ornament with paint by cleverly wrapping it with rope. Think of it as gamer bondage with a splash of DIY thrown in for good measure.
The rope is attached by a nail, pulled tight by an imaginary source somewhere off screen. Tilting the handset changes the direction the rope is pulled, allowing you to navigate it carefully around the often intricate shapes. By touching the object, you can also rotate it in all directions, helped at times by using two fingers to twist it into whatever position you currently need.
Each level has a limited amount of rope, so it takes a steady hand and a thoughtful disposition to get inside every corner and round every contour before tying the rope off onto a second nail.
There's no time limit to pressure you to paint each object quickly nor are there any other elements that prompt urgency. On the contrary, Zen Bound possesses a meditative quality that pervades both presentation and play. Objects don't need to be completely painted before moving to the next either - the generous difficulty curve offered through the minimum percentage covered limit allows you to partially paint ornaments and still access later levels. You can also stay with a level for as long as desired to work around every odd corner and crevice. The motivation is entirely yours.
This same tranquil spirit flow through the game's presentation. Levels are selected via cherry trees, their gnarled branches adorned with tokens representing each shape to be bound by rope. Pink blossoms bloom with each successfully painted ornament, the petals gleaming in the light of paper lanterns that sway according to the movements of your handset. All the while, ethereal tones encourage the contemplation.Zen Bound treads a fine line between game and toy then. While it offers the objective-based play of a game, it also entertains casual tinkering. The emphasis lies in experiencing the sheer joy of the interaction. But regardless of whether you treat it as a game or a clever application, the spirit remains the same: simplicity, creativity and beauty.