Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Review: Poly Bridge [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]


The bridge-building physics game has been a relatively popular one on mobile platforms to this point. Given a span, vehicles looking to cross, and a set of materials your job is to come up with a design that won’t fail as the cars go across. If you use the wrong design or implement it poorly everything will end in catastrophe and you’ll need to go back to the drawing board, and in order to prevent it from being too easy you’re also given a budget so efficiency still needs to come into play. Poly Bridge is a game very much in that vein, and while as an overall package it has more to offer than its mobile counterparts it isn’t without its flaws.


Along the way in the 100+ level Campaign mode you’ll be run through the wringer, presented with a variety of scenarios both practical and silly, progressively learning what it takes to be successful in any situation. Especially early on the solutions will tend to be simpler, implemented with a minimal number of materials, but as you progress the designs will become more elaborate and demanding. Either after you’ve concluded that or if you just want to jump in and have some fun the Sandbox mode offers you an opportunity to just create elaborate or silly structures without the constraints of budget. Both have their appeal and for people who are fans of this sort of gameplay there is a lot of content to explore.

Where the issues arise is with precision, and this is an issue at multiple levels. The first problem is with controls. Though my understanding is that additional methods are in the works in a future patch for the moment your choices are touchscreen controls, that generally work well, and pointer controls if you choose to play in docked mode. Put simply, the level of aggravation with the pointer control implementation make the game not worth playing in docked mode. You’ll find yourself having to re-center often and any hope of being precise using this method will be dashed before even getting a few levels in.


Touchscreen controls are better but also have 2 problems, one of them for now crippling. Unfortunately in order to make a hydraulic drawbridge you need to turn one of your intersection points into a split joint and, as currently implemented, you have no means to do this in touchscreen mode. You could pop your Switch in the dock and briefly go to pointer mode, or simply skip levels requiring this, for now but it’s an aggravating problem waiting for a patch. The remaining issue is a bit more complex and has more to do with the nature of the game, trying to take a real world scenario like building a structurally-sound bridge but to then make a fun game out of it. At the end of the day the goal is really to simply get by, and though there are underlying physics-based truths to what structures will be sound, in general you’re limited in just how precise you can be. Having turned various assistants and tools on and off in a variety of combinations if you have any level of OCD the game will simply drive you batty and there’s no real cure. Inclines and angles are only so precise and while the game is forgiving to a degree my own desire to implement more effective joints and angles was in a consistent struggle. I understand the goal is to make something more light, simple, and fun where you simply drag your finger to construct things quickly and easily but I also often found this aggravating. The trace tool allows you to manage longer spans but it's when you get into the connections that link it all together that things fall apart a bit.

At the moment, due to the pointer control and split joint issue, it is difficult to recommend Poly Bridge. The game is very much playable but it’s hard to miss that the current implementation is sloppy. Once those issues are corrected, or at least improved upon, you’re left with a decision on the game in general. Within the genre I’d say this is, by far, the most full-featured game of its kind with its large number of scenarios and open-ended Sandbox mode. For people who are new to the genre, especially at the moment, I’d probably recommend going with one of the mobile titles to try it out first, to be sure it is something you’ll enjoy.


Score: 5.5

Pros:
  • Teaches some light engineering/physics principles
  • A mix of scenarios that are both elaborate and silly at times
  • A sandbox mode for people who enjoy creating complex structures

Cons:
  • The lack of ability to create a split joint in handheld mode currently is a major oversight
  • Due to the poor implementation of the pointer controls docked play is not recommended currently
  • For people with a degree of OCD the lack of overall precision in the engine can be aggravating, despite that being a goal for making it more “fun”


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