The Insight: Bookbound Brigade Made This High School Senior Wistful and Nostalgic (Well, Mostly)

By Zante Barker

A bunch of little literary characters on a quest to save the world. That’s the idea behind Bookbound Brigade, a new game that takes on the Metroidvania genre. You know, these are games like Axiom Verge, Dead Cells and Hollow Knight. Bookboung Brigade, created by Digital Tales, came out on all systems, and it focuses on a variety of classic stories and well-known characters as they try to complete certain missions against enemies you may have read about when you were a kid. 

Bookbound Brigade takes place in a library called the Literary World. There on display is “The Book of Books,” containing a large number of other stories from what we humans used to read. One day someone took the book and all the pages had fallen out because the binding was starting to come apart. It’s now up to the seven main characters which include King Arthur, Dracula, Robin Hood, Dorothy Gale and Nikola Tesla to go and retrieve the missing pages and put the book back together.

When starting this game, the music grabbed my attention before anything else. As you progress, the music will get stuck in your head like it did for me. One part that really got me going has music that sounds like the “Pirates of the Caribbean” soundtrack. I personally liked that because it perfectly fit in the Jungle portion of the map. 

The way the characters look is another thing that made me love it more. The compact, squat versions of the actual characters from what you see in movies and books of your childhood brought back a lot of memories like how much I loved Dorothy Gale from “The Wizard of Oz.” The way they interact with each really shows who they are. In fact, each personality shines. Take Joan of Arc. She’s strict and up front when she wants something and finds some of the characters annoying. Another example is Robin Hood. As I was playing, I got the sense that he is very energetic in his need to restore the Book in the Literary World. They all team up is by communicating key ideas and interacting with one another to brainstorm. When they work together, it’s in a crazy-looking group.

When walking through the map and fighting bad guys I loved how the characters are hanging in front of the environments to give the world more depth. The trees in the background, swaying left and right, give you the sense of movement beyond the heroes and villains.

There was something I didn’t like about the game: having to find pages just to see the other tutorials. I’d put it all out there right away. Let’s say I want to get a chest in a small space, and my characters are stacked on top of each other. I don’t immediately know how to get under the small space. I tried to figure it out, but it was hit and miss. When looking in the inventory and looking at the book for tutorials, it shows I don’t have that specific command yet. It’s hard not knowing what to do to take that chest. I have been pressing every button on my controller and nothing works. 

Another issue? Let’s say you finish the enchanted forest level and there is a book that takes you in the next level of the Literary World. I wished the whole map for the complete level was up there immediately. I know that’s part of the surprise, but still. Overall, I feel like there should be some directions as to where I should go and where I will end up, so I’d get a much clearer understanding as to what I need to do next. 

Other than that, this game really moved me. It brought back a lot of memories of my childhood reading and movie watching that meant a lot to me. Bookbound Brigade has a wide range of storied characters you can switch to when you need their particular power. Combining these favorite books and protagonists into a video game is a really good idea because their familiar nature made me want to continue to get to the ending to make everything right with the Literary World. And all the play made me want investigate those old classics all over again, too.

Zante Barker is a New York Videogame Critics Circle intern from the DreamYard Prep School in the Bronx.

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