GDC 2014: Gyroscopic dance game Bounden wins the San Francisco Big Indie Pitch
I was responsible for winnowing the entries for the latest Big Indie Pitch down to 15, and I nearly didn't include Bounden on the shortlist. It looked innovative, sure, but it also looked gimmicky.
While developer Game Oven was demonstrating the game for me and the two other judges at my table I remained sceptical. It reminded me of those clever tech demos you see at conferences, which demonstrate what's possible but not necessarily advisable.
And then I played it, and I changed my mind.
Bounden, which Game Oven describes as a mix of Twister and ballet, involves holding one end of your iPhone while your partner holds the other, and moving it about to follow arrangements of circles that are spinning around an on-screen ball.
The appeal of this isn't immediately apparent, but once you get the phone in your hand and start working with a partner – in my case developer Adriaan de Jongh – it all falls into place.
The joy of the game is partly down to the surprisingly elegant way in which it puppeteers your body. Joined to another person by a lozenge of black glass and metal, you sway and swing and twirl, always in concert with your partner.
It gets confusing from time to time, as you find that the only way to follow the rings is seemingly to bend your arm the wrong way and dislocate your hips, but the absence of a competitive element means that your failures are always shared, and cheerfully resolved.
This is an antidote to vicious same-screen multiplayer games like Gentlemen!, encouraging you to feel an immediate collaborative connection with another person rather than a frenzied hatred for them (which also has its place, of course).
Bounden is much more fun than it looks. The final version needs more variety and depth than we were able to see during the pitch in order to avoid becoming a gimmick, but it was a worthy Big Indie Pitch winner, and we're expecting it to cause a stir when it arrives in May.
[Update: Bullet Boy took second place and Wizard Golf came third in the Big Indie Pitch.]