Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Review: The Bridge


Blending a hand-drawn set of levels reminiscent of an M. C. Esher drawing with often complex puzzles, The Bridge isn’t quite like anything I’ve ever played. From its humble beginning where you’ll simply be left to figure out how to get past the game’s opening screen the level of challenge ramps up gradually, though it will force you to make many leaps of faith along the way. Often just when you think you’ve got the hang of things you’ll have a fresh conundrum thrown at you that will require you to adapt your way of thinking. If you’re looking to spend several hours working your way through these sorts of puzzles it delivers a solid package.

The easiest draw in the game is certainly its artwork. With levels often looking like they’ve come from the sketchbook of someone just a bit mad the peculiar flow and the way you’ll interact with the environment will continue to force you to take a moment and work through precisely what is happening on-screen. You’ll need to manipulate gravity, warps, and what appear to be inter-dimensional teleporters, among other things, in order to find the solution to each stage you’re presented with. Elements that began as something to be avoided at all costs will often then become mechanisms to solving your problems once they’ve been combined with something as simple as a switch. It is often when the puzzle solution works against all of your expectations that the game is at its most rewarding.


Where the danger may lie for some people will be just how far they’re either willing or able to push themselves to learn and adapt. Even when you’re dedicated to finding the solution sitting before you there will inevitably be some levels that either don’t click for you or even that you may make harder for yourself than they need to be. A few times my mind was set on alternative solutions to the puzzle in front of me and it wasn’t until I’d finally exhausted my patience of trying to make that solution work that I finally stumbled on the actual, and often simpler, solution.

What complicates this aspect of the game is often the somewhat sluggish controls, which sometimes even when you know what the solution should be make you question whether or not it is the right path. Getting it all to work out correctly can be more of a challenge than perhaps it should be in places. The rate you fall at and the fact that some unintended surfaces will work out to a degree can combine at times to both scare you off of the correct solution when it doesn’t work out quickly or to let your mind linger on a path that ultimately won’t work out. This didn’t happen often but it did sap some time and enjoyment when I’d find myself torn between two potential solutions and the execution for both was just a little on the janky side.


That said the method of control is simple and accessible enough overall. You’ll be able to move yourself left and right with the analog or digital controls and you’ll be able to rotate the screen you’re part of using either the shoulder buttons or even the tilt controls (these can be turned off if you don’t like them though). In handheld mode the game is playable but overall your character and some of the details will get a bit on the small side so on some levels it may not be as ideal. In addition in handheld mode the vibration from the HD Rumble is overly intense but thankfully they can be disabled, preventing them from becoming a real distraction when they decide to go off.

Overall I appreciate the care and effort that has gone into making the game as visually stunning as it is while also providing an ample puzzle-solving challenge. While from puzzle to puzzle individual results will likely vary, with some solvable on the first try and others requiring you to take a break to return to it later with fresh thoughts, a lot comes down to how each person chooses to approach them. At the end of the day if you immerse yourself in the challenge, and leave your mind free to toy with different potential ways to solve the problems put before you, The Bridge will give you numerous hours of thought-provoking enjoyment.


Score: 7

Pros:
  • Outstanding visual style
  • The puzzles never let up and require you to keep your mind nimble
  • Each chapter changes things up and starts over with a new mechanic to understand and master


Cons:
  • The sluggish controls can, in places, make it hard to determine which ideas are dead ends and which are the solutions
  • The HD Rumble, though it can be turned off, needs to be toned down to maybe a quarter (or less) of its current intensity
  • Due to the relative scale of your character and details to the overall on-screen environment some levels may be too hard to play effectively in handheld mode


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