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Bonded Realities (Xbox 360) artwork

Bonded Realities (Xbox 360) review

"You control a quartet of preschool kids who, while playing in a sandbox, get warped to a mystical world and placed in bodies more capable of monster battling than the average tyke. Kind of like Avatar without the ungodly budget. Or the contrived "nature and conservation are good" plot. Instead, the contrived plot here revolves around the typical world-dominating dictator. Or it does eventually."

When it comes to RPGs, there are a lot I'd love to beat a second time, but when you consider the number of hours I'd have to invest in order to do so, it usually isn't feasible. For me to pick up a completed RPG and start a new mission, it has to be the best of the best, so most of them I beat wind up in my cabinet for a number of months on that off chance that I'll go through it again on a whim or just explore that optional dungeon that was unlocked by beating the final boss. Usually, after a period of neglect, they wind up being one of a handful I trade in to subtract from the cost of buying more games. The desire to replay them might be there, but it's merely a tiny voice buried in the deepest recesses of my consciousness. An easy voice to ignore, especially considering the huge number of games I have yet to experience. Why dally with the old when new conquests are just around the corner?

The easiest voice to ignore, however, is the one that isn't there. Those games which don't necessarily have to be bad, but just don't offer any real reason to want to play them again. Bonded Realities provided a certain amount of entertainment. I wasn't miserably tapping buttons while praying the pain would end soon while playing, but I didn't shed any tears when this XBox indie title's credits started rolling. It was a game that cost one dollar and one dollar worth of entertainment was what I received. No more, no less. I can't really complain about that, but I'm not jumping up and down to offer praise, either.

Bonded Realities is a short game, offering a couple hours of adventuring. You control a quartet of preschool kids who, while playing in a sandbox, get warped to a mystical world and placed in bodies more capable of monster battling than the average tyke. Kind of like Avatar without the ungodly budget. Or the contrived "nature and conservation are good" plot. Instead, the contrived plot here revolves around the typical world-dominating dictator. Or it does eventually. A large portion of the game actually revolves around the four kids exploring the world finding each other and joining together.

You start controlling the one you named when starting the game for a brief period of time and then switch to another when he gets captured by soldiers. Those two will join forces after a bit and travel through a vast dragon-owned cave. Upon beating that beast, the third character joins. You'll then travel through a forest and haunted house to meet up with the fourth and final party member. After that, you're told about the main evil guy and all that's left is to travel to his fortress and fight him.

That whole "travel to final dungeon immediately after getting fourth character" bit was kind of abrupt. I wasn't expecting a lengthy 20-hour quest for my dollar, but I also wasn't expecting the game to nearly be over by the time I'd gotten all four characters together. Usually doing that constitutes the prelude to a rousing adventure; not time to quickly wrap everything up and rush to the credits. Even worse, I thought the haunted house that you get the fourth party member in was a more epic dungeon than the actual final one, as it had evil door minibosses and a couple button-pushing puzzles. If "puzzle" is the correct term for a room with a lot of buttons that you have to push in a particular order to open a door. Probably the only redeeming aspect of the largest and most complex of those rooms was the number of levels my characters gained before I figured it out, but at least it was a deviation from the norm.

That would happen to be something I call "JRPG-lite". This is the sort of game that I'd consider perfectly acceptable for novices to this sort of thing. There's not much difficulty and everything progresses in a linear fashion. It only takes a minimal amount of effort to find "secrets" like a semi-tough optional boss and a careful player should have little (if any) trouble finding all the treasure chests. Veteran RPGers might find things overly simplistic, as the four characters are pretty bland and there's no way to customize them. Of the handful of skills they gain, the healing ones were pretty useful, as the game's dungeons did tend to be reasonably lengthy. As far as the others went, I only saw need to apply a couple offensive spells against the tougher late-game bosses.

I did find a certain charming appeal to the cartoonish graphics and there is some humor in the game, although the only things I found particularly funny were a king's love of throwing old food at people imprisoned in his dungeon and a battle "action" by one randomly fought monster where it griped about the lack of ravens as heroes in video games. Bonded Realities kept me interested enough to continue traveling through its world and I had enough fun to be disappointed at how quickly everything came to an end as soon as I found my final party member, so the designers obviously were doing some things right.

Which leads me to declare this game a perfectly adequate RPG. It has its positives and its negatives. It moves fast and is reasonably entertaining, but on the other hand, it's easy and enters its conclusion right when you'd expect the main plot to START. Bonded Realities is a decent diversion and worth the dollar it costs, but probably won't provide more than a couple hours of entertainment. Which still is reasonable for rainy day entertainment or the like, so if you have a dollar to burn and some time to kill, there are worse ways to go about it than this download.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (September 02, 2011)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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wolfqueen001 posted September 07, 2011:

Hm... This game sounds pretty dull to me. Though you said it was adequate, I'm coming away with a sense of "meh"-ness that would probably keep me away from this game even if I had access to it. I think that's just because I'm at a point in my gaming life (particularly when it comes to RPGs) where I really can't be bothered with anything that I know I won't be terribly interested in.

Conceptually speaking, though, the game seems like it could have had a lot of potential. I could easily have seen a game where a bunch of 4 year olds stuck in adult bodies act like... well, a bunch of four year olds stuck in adult bodies. That might have made the plot and such a bit more interesting... Unless there actually is some of that in the game, and you just didn't talk about it for spoiler reasons.

Still, it's a shame the game's not much better. I may have wanted to try then. Hell, even if the game were worse I may have wanted to check it out, because even epically bad games can provide a modicum of interest. Haha.

Good review anyhow.
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overdrive posted September 07, 2011:

I think one of the tricky things doing this review was combining the impressions I had with the game with how it's a $1 indie game. That's the kind of thing that can be hard to not sound lackluster about when you're essentially saying, "It's a decent purchase considering that it's only $1 and won't take up too much of your time."

You know, it's like I feel the score was accurate because I got my money worth and had a decent time. But nothing stood out as particularly great or interesting to earn lots of praise. It was a retro-style JRPG that people who dig JRPGs should have a passable few hours blasting through. But it's definitely not some essential purchase or anything like that.

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