In days long past there was a program called Book It! that was available in elementary schools. You’d read a book, prove that you did so and get delicious free pizza as a result. Well, “delicious” depends on your thoughts on Pizza Hut, of course, but I suspect kids just love pizza and don’t care too much where it’s from. Reading, a boring activity for nerds, can be fun if bribery is involved! It can also be fun if it involves Metroidvania action, as we see in Bookbound Brigade.
When the Literary World is endangered by the loss of the magical Book of Books, the Bookbound Brigade leaps into action! This is a group of literary characters who team up to save the world of books, as the name would suggest. On their way they’ll deal with baddies, solve quests and do their best to get kids into reading…or something. That’s a big deal, since without the B.O.B., characters become “Unbound,” meaning they end up just a bit twisted…
The Brigade is basically a little clump of heroism that function as a single playable character. Said clump is able to change formations as needed to accomplish different tasks, which is a plus. On the other hand, it can be pretty awkward to guide around when it comes to jumping as the entire Brigade needs to land safely, which is a definite minus.
As for clump constituents, you’ve got Dracula, Sun Wukong, Dorothy and so on, with more characters joining over time. Each member of the Bookbound Brigade offers additional capabilities, so as you’d expect from a Metroidvania your character-clump is going to become more and more effective at negotiating obstacles as you proceed. This means you’re going to be backtracking every now and then as well to ensure you don’t miss anything. Combat, meanwhile, tends to be pretty mashy and it’s difficult to formulate anything resembling a strategy. Just fling yourself in there and hope!
I honestly wanted to hate Bookbound Brigade’s style when I first started playing, but…I just can’t. It’s so damn earnest! The characters are goofy-looking and endearing, you’ve got tons of silly flavor text for heroes and their techniques alike…Bookbound Brigade wants you to like it so badly that it’s hard not to do so. It’s also not exactly graphically taxing (to put it mildly), so it looks and runs great on any platform, though there are times when the scene zooms out a bit too far and the super tiny Brigade can be hard to keep track of.
In a world where a new Metroidvania game isn’t coming out every other week anymore – the modern post-Indiepocalypse world we inhabit today, in other words – Bookbound Brigade manages to stand out just a bit. It’s a cutesy romp through some familiar settings with classic characters that does the genre proud. Sometimes-frustrating mechanics aside, there’s more than enough here to make this romp with a few bookish friends an easy recommendation.