Zen Bound is a relaxed puzzle game which revolves around covering wooden figures with paint by wrapping a rope around them. The gameplay concerns covering the largest portion of each wooden figure as efficiently as possible.
Players must rotate a wooden shape by pinching and twisting it with their fingers on the multi-touch display. The rope always hangs down on the screen and is controlled by the accelerometer.
The goal in Zen Bound is to cover the wood with as much paint as possible. There are no time limits and the rope can be unwound from the figure, as needed. Once players have covered enough area, one of three cherry blossoms will flower, signifying that the player can finish playing by tying the rope off on a highlighted nail placed somewhere in the wood.
The current version of Zen Bound consists of three types of puzzles, each organized into "trees". The tree of reflection consists of carved animal shapes like birds, snakes, whales, and bears, while the Tree of Challenge consists of geometric shapes. An additional tree, called the tree of Nostalgia, was later added in an update, featuring further wooden figures modeled after toys.
By causing the cherry blossoms to flower, upper branches of the trees become unlocked. As players climb the tree, the shapes become progressively more difficult to cover efficiently, with varying contours, sizes, and amount of rope. Later stages provide challenging twists, such as numerous wooden blocks and oddly shaped blocks.
The critical response for Zen Bound was almost entirely positive. It received a 9.5 from IGN's Levi Buchanan and was highlighted by many sites as one of the best iPhone Apps of 2009. Zen Bound is often praised for making better use of the iPhone than the majority of the games on the platform.
Due to the game's critical success and high number of sales in the App Store, Zen Bound 2 has since been announced for the iPad.