Updated: Zen Bound Review

We just completed STP’s very first video review on Zen Bound! It’s on our podcast, and we stuck it on top of our Zen Bound review, too. Check it out.

Just got word from Chillingo that Zen Bound is now available in a free Lite edition, offering two levels in a title we called “a fascinating game, a transcendental work of art.”

If you haven’t picked up the full version yet, we’re pretty sure you will after taking Zen Bound Lite for a test drive.

Find it at the App Store.

iPhone gamers have been talking about Secret Exit’s Zen Bound for almost six months, in tones alternating between hushed reverence and messianic fervor. This kind of anticipation is practically unknown in our community. People wanted this game the same way console gamers ache for the next Halo or Grand Theft Auto–before they really even knew what it was, or how it worked. As it turns out, the hype was entirely justified: Zen Bound met and exceeded every single one of our outsized expectations. It is a fascinating game, a transcendental work of art, and a bold statement in favor of the creative singularity that is the App Store.

We have detailed Zen Bound’s gameplay in a previous hands-on, so we will keep our explanation brief. The object is to wrap wooden statuettes in string as thoroughly and efficiently as possible. There are 51 objects to wrap in total, and they are separated into two groups: the Tree of Reflection and the Tree of Challenge (a third tree will appear in a later update). Each tree is decorated with tags representing the statues, which are either carved in the form of animals or abstract shapes.

After wrapping an object, you are graded on how much of its surface area you managed to cover. 70% coverage earns you one flower, 85% gets you two, and 99% is good for all three. Your progress up the tree is regulated by how many flowers you cause to bloom. You will often have to revisit previously completed levels and perfect them to move up to the next batch of tags.

Zen Bound has many amazing attributes, but its touch controls stand out on top of everything else. They are flawless. Pinching the screen allows you to rotate an object around any axis you choose, while swiping rolls it up in string. It requires no real thought or effort at all to position the object however you like’”it literally feels like second nature.

Threading the string into tight crevasses and crannies does take some skill, but anyone will be able to do it with a bit of practice. The game feeds you as much string as you need to do the job, and it keeps it nice and taut, so you can easily control its path and see what you’re doing. The string behaves exactly the way you’d expect it to, too. You can wrap it around a corner, and friction will keep it in place while you reorient the object and start turning it in a different direction.

Like Secret Exit’s previous game