Updated: Zen Bound 2 Universal Review

Zen Bound 2 just received a massive update, making it a universal app and improving its performance on the iPad. As a result, it has become the follow-up to Secret Exit’s incredible original it was always meant to be.

Instead of having users pay to play the same game on another device, Secret Exit has kept up their trend of universal apps. Zen Bound 2 can now be played on any of your other handheld iOS devices. Depending on the device, you’ll get slightly different graphics. The game makes use of shaders on the iPhone 3GS and iPod Touch 3rd Gen, while iPhone 4 users will get all this plus Retina-optimized visuals. It also makes use of the iPhone 4’s gyroscope.

In our initial review, we stated that the iPad version had some performance hiccups. This is no longer the case. The game’s engine has now been further optimized to give the smooth experience that defines Zen Bound.

Other new features include iOS 4 optimizations and achievements to earn. Secret Exit also changed the game’s name to Zen Bound 2 Universal to reflect the app’s latest state. With all this, there is no doubt in our mind that this is a must-have game, especially if you enjoyed the original.

On a related note, you can download the soundtrack for both Zen Bound and Zen Bound 2 by signing up for Secret Exit’s newsletter on the Zen Bound website. These were composed specifically for the games by Ghost Monkey and offer some beautiful, tranquil, and artistic listening. If we reviewed music, these would both be a 4 as well.

A year ago, Zen Bound proved itself to be a gamer’s ultimate therapy. Wrapping wooden objects in string to paint them proved to have an odd, calming effect on our minds. In this sequel, Secret Exit kept to their same award-winning formula. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite as engaging to play on the larger screen, partly because the game now requires awkwardly long swiping gestures.

In a sense, Zen Bound 2 is more of an ‘HD’ version than a full-fledged sequel. It retains all of the content of its predecessor, but now it splits up the levels into new tree tiers. There are also some new wooden objects, including familiar iPhone characters like crossover king John Gore. However, it all feels like you’ve played this game before.


The big change to the formula comes in the form of ‘paint bombs’. These are attached to either the string or needles that stick out of the wood. When the paint bomb touches the wood or rope, it explodes, creating a thick coating of paint over a certain radius.

Different trees use this aspect in various ways. For example, in some instances your rope doesn’t lay down paint, meaning you must wrap the rope around the needles and use just the paint bombs to color the wooden object.

The paint bomb levels do have a downside. Since you can’t turn the feature off, many players will be disappointed to find they can’t simply wrap an object in the traditional manner. Along these lines, we’d love a “free play” mode that lets the player wrap an object in an unlimited amount of rope, for those times when you simply want to manipulate the object at will without being faced with a challenge.

Finally, a chance to put graffiti on your childhood pal.

Zen Bound 2’s biggest disappointment is that it doesn’t feel optimized for the iPad. This is understandable, since Secret Exit probably didn’t have a device to test the game on pre-launch, but in its current state it can feel like a bit of a strain when making long gestures across the screen. The framerate dips don’t help matters, either.

Flawed as the control implementation may be, the iPad’s vibrant display really brings out the new high-resolution graphics and shaders. Indie electronic musician Ghost Monkey has also created 25 minutes of new original music, bringing the total soundtrack length to 45 minutes. It’s just as lovely as before, and we have our fingers crossed that Secret Exit will make it available to download separately, like the original.

Although it does take a step backwards in some aspects, we still enjoyed our time with Zen Bound 2. It may not be as soothing, but most of the production values have been ramped up. If you don’t mind playing through a lot of rehashed content, you may want to check out this sequel.

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