Developers: Ty Taylor and Mario Castaneda
It's difficult not to love a puzzle title with a beguilingly simple central premise. Quick to comprehend, yet often fiendish to master, the advent of digital marketplaces, browser-gaming libraries such as Kongregate, and open mobile platforms has led to a renaissance for games such as Echochrome, And Yet It Moves, Shift, and Braid. The Bridge is another such game, having you manipulate small pockets of levels with a simple objective: get to the door.
Each level in The Bridge is presented in charmingly hand-drawn fashion, with the game's gravity-bending protagonist literally pencilled into the level at each beginning. As well as controlling the protagonist with WASD, you manipulate the rotation of the levels with the arrow keys.
The levels unfold in a simple manner, easing you into things to begin with. You might rotate the level one way to slide up a hill, or back the other numerous time to rescue a key from a spiral maze, all the while mind you don't accidentally fling yourself out into the ether. In time, however, the level design begins to utilise Escher-esque designs, encouraging players to use the controls to alter the perspectives of the levels in question, and transform the planes across which you might travel.
As the levels themselves increase in complexity, so too do the hazards and features added to provide new challenges. Large boulders with creepy classical faces carved upon them, or Menaces as they're known here, can crush you; switch-operated, swirling vortices can be used to suck in dangerous hazards, but also pose you a threat; later on, there are Veils that can nullify all gravitational transitions on the protagonist should you stand in one, allowing you to twist and turn the levels even as you remain static.
It's a fine little game to begin with, although the Escherian rules of geometry don't quite work as you might expect, and there are certain ledges you seem to be unable to fall off for no good reason. Moreover, there comes a point after an hour or two where levels occasionally turn into a tedious process of trial-and-error. There is a rewind function in the game that lets you wind back time at the push of a button, but it's quite slow. In fact, that goes for most of the game's mechanics. Walking anywhere takes a while, and you could probably boil an egg in the time it takes for a level to rotate completely.
One of the game's mechanisms sees you flipping the level on its head, changing colour in the process from white to grey, or vice-versa. In levels where this happens, there'll typically be two types of key to unlock the door, and you'll need to match the colour of the keys in order to pick them up, and match the door to eventually walk through it. These can be pretty complicated at times, but once you've eventually worked out what to do, the feeling of satisfaction is rather dulled by the interminable pace of the game. You'll know exactly what to do, but before you can move on, you'll need to walk all the way to the other side of the level, rotate it halfway, drop down onto another plain, pick up the grey key, then go back and do that three more times.
You see, the largest problem that The Bridge has it that it's not particularly satisfying. The reliance on trial-and-error, the laborious pace, and the inconstancy of the mechanics mean that the whole thing presents a rather inconsistent experience. Eureka moments tend to be exhausted before you can finish a level, and the central premise never really impresses in the same manner that Echochrome, which used Escherian geometry to superb effect, managed to do.
It looks gorgeous, though, with every inch looking like it's been drawn with a steady hand and a love of charcoal. There are lots of little aesthetic touches that The Bridge has in its favour: The Menaces are visually striking, and their weighty rumble matches their imposing features. When you die, you leave behind an almost ethereal imprint of your figure, much like a pencil drawing might if scrubbed out with a cheap eraser. The music, too, complements the beautiful greyscale design, with the classical minimalism both soothing and relaxing urges to occasionally rage-quit, and providing a sense of melancholia that supplements the snippets of narrative text that swim about the screen in between chapters.
Ultimately, you'll be able to clock the game in a handful of hours, and it's worth going through if you're a fan of inventive puzzlers. The £11.99 asking price might be considered a little steep considering the short nature of the game, but equally, it just about manages to not overstay its welcome. A solid little way of spending a few hours, then; just don't expect it to blow your mind.
- Gorgeous aesthetics
- Some well-worked levels
- A few novel gameplay mechanics
- But sadly quite inconsistent
- Tedious pacing combined with trial-and-error gameplay
- Asking price might prove a little too steep
The Short Version: Beautiful to behold, and packing a few interesting ideas, The Bridge is a fairly solid puzzler, but it's a shame that the mechanics never quite match the aesthetics, and that the euphoric eureka moments are lost behind tedious trial-and-error.