- 1 Player
- Downloadable from Steam
- Full Controller Support
“This game is weird…”
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve said these exact words during my playthrough of The Bridge. It’s not that it’s off-putting by being over-violent or disturbing, but it’s so set in its surreal and mysterious world that even the most indifferent of gamers will find themselves tilting their head in confusion once or twice. And despite some clever puzzle mechanics and its stunning art design, The Bridge is held back by level designs that fail to inspire ingenuity on the player’s behalf, instead relying on simple trial and error.
Our silent hero, a bearded and bespectacled academic of sorts, lives a life of solitude. He finds himself in a black and white world, free from the distractions that might plague the world that you and I live in. Instead, you watch as this character descends into the madness that is his mind. He’s a lonely man left to his own thoughts and devices, and the bits of written text between levels provide context for his work, discard ideas, and thought process. The story is intriguing to say the least, but unlike its contemporaries, The Bridge requires you to work it out for yourself, even if it might require some retreading of old ground to piece all the hints together. When (and if) you do, you’ll find a narrative that touches on the trials of tribulations of creation and thought, and explores an odd relationship between Sir Isaac Newton and M.C. Escher.
Every puzzle presents the simple task of walking through a door to progress to the next level. It sounds simple, but instead of solely moving your character around, you are given the ability to rotate the world clockwise and counterclockwise, similar to And Yet It Moves. In the beginning, the puzzles are simple enough, requiring you to reach a door while avoiding creepy faced spherical toys and their deadly touch. After a few simple puzzles the game introduces vortexes, which can grab and hold environmental objects such as keys, allowing you to disable them later once you’ve orientated the world properly to allow them to fall within your reach. Towards the end you’ll come across such things portals that flip entire levels and transform you from black to white and vice versa, which dictates what objects you can and can’t pick up and interact with.
For those who have played their fair share of puzzle games, you’ll progress through the game fairly quickly. The Bridge is a fairly short game, with my first playthrough of the first 24 levels clocking in at just under 2 hours; however, replayability comes in the form of “mirrored mode”, which flips each of the original levels and throws more obstacles in for good measure. The idea sounds cheap, but each level is altered enough to make a second outing worthwhile. The increased difficulty will also please puzzle veterans who may have found the easier levels a bit too simple, though the difficulty curve can be more than unfair at times.
Sadly, while the concepts presented in each puzzle seem intriguing on paper, it all doesn’t come together as you might have hoped. While it may have been done in order to prevent players from cheating their way through levels, both the world and protagonist hobble along at a frustratingly slow pace. Unlike most puzzle games, The Bridge is comprised of worlds that are very tightly designed and closed, eschewing exploration and maneuverability for interesting level designs and manipulation of physics. Although there’s nothing wrong with the concept, many levels boil down to trial and error. If rotating the world in one direction isn’t working, you can simply try another direction. Same goes for moving your character; if one way isn’t working, try another. This robs the player of any potential “Aha!” moments, focusing more on sheer experimentation than brainpower. Similar to Braid, a rewind option exists to undo mistakes or death, but when attempting to rewind large segments of time, I often found myself resetting the level entirely through the menu, since there’s no way to speed up the rewind rate.
The game’s minimalistic art design is worthy of attention, with an aesthetic that is heavily inspired by the works of M.C. Escher. The game’s hand drawn, black and white levels are reminiscent of titles like Braid and Limbo, and the decrepit and sparse environments can be hauntingly beautiful, if you take the time to notice. Every time you enter a level, the protagonist is penciled in, and deaths are marked by smudged drawings of his lifeless body. The music blends into the background, and for the most part, is largely forgettable.
At its worst, The Bridge stands as a pastiche of puzzle games that have already left their mark in the indie gaming community. But at its best, it offers up a handful of unique puzzles that can appeal to both genre enthusiasts and newcomers. The main draw lies in the arresting visuals and mind-bending levels, but this short, and sometimes tantrum-inducing collection of puzzles is worth a recommendation for those who are looking to bridge the gap between thought and entertainment.