Bound High!
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Virtual Boy
  • Developer:
    • Japan System Supply
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP Canceled
    • US Canceled
Score: 70%

This review was published on 08/01/2016.

Bound High is a video game developed by Japan System Supply for the Virtual Boy. It was going to be published by Nintendo in Japan on February 23, 1996, and North America on August 26, 1996, but it was canceled due to the Virtual Boy's poor performance. However, the game was completed before its cancelation, and there were rumors that a finished prototype existed somewhere. After many years, the ROM of that prototype eventually found its way online, allowing anyone with an emulator to play the game. Japan System Supply also made a successor to this unreleased game that actually did get released, called Chalvo 55: Super Puzzle Action, which came out for the Game Boy in Japan on February 21, 1997. And no, Bound High isn't in reference to a high school of wheelchair bound students. It is, however, a fairly okay game. Despite never getting an official release, this is easily one of the best games on the Virtual Boy.

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The hero of this here game is a robot named Chalvo, just like the Game Boy title. In case you're wondering, yes, he's the protagonist of both games. Anyway, the extremely basic story of Bound High is communicated through a cinema scene at the beginning of the game. It's literally a movie theater, complete with an audience. There's no dialogue to be had here, as all of the information is conveyed through still images. It's a pretty smart way to do a story, as the absence of text would have made the localization process a lot easier. Not that it mattered for this game, considering it never actually came out. As for the story itself, it depicts cities on Earth being attacked by monsters that fell from the sky. Seeing this, the robotic hero, Chalvo, transforms into a ball and bounces into action. You could say that he got the ball rolling.

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You control Chalvo as he bounces around on platforms in outer space while in his ball form. The game sports an overhead view, and to give you a better view of the platforms below you, Chalvo is rendered as a transparent object so that you can see right through him. The controls for this game couldn't get any simpler; you use the left or right d-pads to maneuver Chalvo as he jumps around, and that's it. Chalvo will automatically and constantly jump by himself, so you don't have to press any other buttons. Beating enemies is also simple, as all you have to do is either squash them by bouncing on top of their fragile bodies, or push them off the platforms and into the deadly abyss below. Speaking of, you have no life bar, so the only way you can die is by falling into the abyss yourself. All this simplicity makes for a very intuitive experience, but don't think the game will be too easy, because it gets awfully challenging later.

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Adventure of Chalvo is the main story mode of the game. There are four worlds with ten stages each, plus there are three separate difficulty modes. The objective of each stage is to simply clear out all the enemies. The main threat is the fact that most floor tiles you land on will break, giving you fewer places to go. As such, there is some strategy involved as you plan out the best route. While things do start off simple, complexity is gradually added in the form of new enemies, different tiles, and more power-ups. Aside from breakable tiles, there are rubber tiles that launch Chalvo extra high, electrified tiles that temporarily stun him, wind that'll push him around, and more. Additionally, there are bonus stages, "plasma" stages, and boss fights. The plasma stages task you with pushing positive and negative spheres into each other, whereas the bonus stages have you flip over question mark panels; you're timed during both of these. Meanwhile, boss stages pit you against giant monsters, and you have to bounce on their weak spots while avoiding the spiky parts of their bodies. Due to this variety, the adventure mode is fun, though it's a little short.

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There are a few other modes of play available besides the main one, the second of which is Score Attack. The rules are slightly different for Score Attack; instead of simply beating all the enemies, your goal here is to obtain a certain amount of points. If you fail to get the required score even after eliminating all enemies, then you lose. Conversely, you can sometimes beat stages without even finishing off the baddies, provided you meet the score threshold first. Usually, meeting the score threshold requires some fancy maneuvers. For example, there are these blob enemies that explode into little balls upon defeat, and those balls may knock nearby enemies into the abyss, which awards you with bonus points. Figuring out the solution to each stage is akin to solving a puzzle, which will be fun for those that seek mental stimulation. There are sixteen stages that you can do in any order, and after you beat those, you'll unlock four more for a total of twenty. Like the main adventure, your progress is saved via passwords. Still, twenty stages isn't a whole lot.

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Pocket and Cushion is the name of another mode and it's like a mixture between pool and miniature golf. Basically, Chalvo will still bounce around as normal, but each stage will have a varying number of balls that you must guide into a varying number of holes. To accomplish this, you need to repeatedly jump into the balls to push them around. However, you're timed, so you better be quick about it. Similar to Score Attack, you must meet or exceed a minimum score to win, and you get points based on how many balls you successfully get into holes and how much time you have left. Also like Score Attack, there are sixteen stages that you can do in any order, and four more get unlocked after you beat them. This mode is deceptively enjoyable. In fact, it's the second most entertaining mode after the main adventure. Sadly, it's a bit short lived.

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As its name implies, Random Game has you doing stages with randomized layouts. There are no special objectives here; you simply do the same thing as the main adventure. In other words, annihilate all foes without falling off the platforms. These stages start off quite hard and only proceed to get harder. Even though the layouts are indeed randomized, this mode does recycle all the same tiles, enemies, and power-ups, so it never introduces any new elements. It also never ends. As a result of that, you won't encounter anything in this mode that you haven't already seen from the other ones, making this the least interesting mode in the game by far. It's basically there in the event that you fully exhaust all the other modes and still want more to do.

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Given its simplicity, this game is surprisingly engaging. The story mode manages to be entertaining all throughout due to always introducing new elements and interesting layouts, the multiple modes round out the experience with some variety, and the core game play is just plain fun. And while each individual mode is short, the game does have a decent length if you combine them all. It's a shame this game was never officially released, because it's quite pleasant. If you play Bound High, you'll have a ball of a time. By not releasing this game, the developers really dropped the ball.

Word Count: 1,272

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