The Bridge is a neat little puzzler that demands similar levels of mind-bending-ness as Portal and Antichamber, with the average player probably spending a lot of time staring at their screen struggling to work out how to progress at particular points. Hopefully, otherwise I’ve embarrassed myself. There’s at least five hours of gameplay to be worked from a single playthrough of the whole game and I doubt there is any room for replayability since the satisfaction of outsmarting a puzzle can hardly be replicated when you already know the answers. That’s not all The Bridge offers though, with an aesthetic appeal and aura of intrigue guaranteeing that this little title stands out from the crowd of indie-puzzlers.
There are 24 ‘real world’ puzzles (which then have ‘mirrored world’ versions, though these are essentially different puzzles, so let’s say there’s a total of 48) and in most of these there is only one concept that once understood is simply overcome, while slightly more difficult puzzles may take up to 15 minutes to work out. Then there are rarer puzzles (maybe four or five?) that are disgustingly difficult and could require over an hour of constant mind-meltingly frustrating failure before success is finally reached. On these occasions, the desire to not be beaten and laughed at by the game itself was my only motivation to push through. In these cases the solution wasn’t discovered through a systematic approach but, rather, by accident (again, I hope I’m not alone…), so despite the relief of such torture being over, I still felt pretty dumb. However, for the most part the puzzles are tame enough to keep you sane yet difficult enough to be challenging. Which is nice, in a market that isn’t lacking in almost impossible puzzles (I’m looking at you, Gateways).
The gameplay of The Bridge is surprisingly simple; your character can only walk left and right (no jump, crouch, sprint etc.), although he has adapted a peculiar ability to shift the direction of gravity to his will, effectively rotating the world around him. You’ll spend time walking on walls and ceilings in various ‘rooms’ of what must be the world’s strangest mansion, with some of the largest books known to man (seriously, these books are bigger than doors…). Typical of puzzlers, new elements are gradually introduced as the game progresses. It never ceases to surprise, with genuinely interesting game-changers doing what they do best–changing the game–right to the end. The rooms that widened my eyes in awe and amazement the most were those that forced players to control two versions of the protagonist (I’m not sure if he’s supposed to be Isaac Newton. I named him Herbert.) and align him with escape-doors simultaneously. In the tragic event that players mess up (and by tragic I mean inevitably frequent), there’s usually no need to restart the whole level, since a neat Braid-esque style back-track ability is also available at all times.
The two-man development team of The Bridge consists of developer Ty Taylor and artist Mario Castaneda. That the art style of the whole game is designed by an actual artist is quite clear, with a beautiful black and white lithographic visual style inspired by renowned M.C. Escher works, and haunting music that fits in perfectly, creating an almost sinister vibe throughout the game. The storyline embellishes this dark feel, but is ultimately too vague and lofty to really be engaging. I’d fathom a guess that a tale of friendship and a descent into physics-induced madness was involved, but really I can’t remember. The narrative is intriguing, to be fair, yet not necessary to enjoy The Bridge, although enough effort has been put into the writing that it never becomes a negative issue. So that’s… good?
I mentioned earlier that there’s no room for repeated playthroughs here, though I guess one may be interested in finding all the ‘hidden wisps’ alluded to in a Steam achievement. For those that weren’t so inclined as to overlook the narrative (*cough*), I gather these wisps would build upon it. Good for you.
If you do decide to tackle The Bridge, be warned that it can definitely make you rage, and it will take a lot of willpower to work through each puzzle, with huge difficulty-spikes taking you by surprise. I feel that it’s worth it though, because for all the keyboard-smashes and death threats sent I Herbert’s way, at the end of it all I am left with a sense of accomplishment for finally finishing, without hating the development team behind it. Although the movement system can at times feel sluggish, the puzzles of The Bridge are fun and artistically appealing to take on, so hey, it gets a recommendation from me.
I just wonder why Herbert hasn’t moved out of that house yet. Seriously, that is one messed up place.
Select Start Media was provided with a review copy of the Bridge by Ty Taylor.