Changing your perception
Last week I reviewed Antichamber, a puzzle game featuring non-Euclidean geometry. This week I set about playing The Bridge, a 2D logic puzzle game based upon changing your perception of a situation and altering the physics of a world. As a result, I have been approaching stairs and suspicious looking roads with a degree of caution recently, just in case they do not act in the way I expect them to. The two games are equally clever, albeit in different ways, and they even share a similar icon in Steam, that of a 3D triangle with only one side. The mobius strip is a recurring element throughout The Bridge as you will be encountering puzzles with all manner of impossible shapes.
The first thing you will notice is the gorgeous hand drawn black and white art style. The first scene has the camera pan down over an apple tree, with an old man, the main character, sitting beneath it in a deep slumber. You can actually see the pencil strokes and watch them change with each frame of the animation, and it looks really nice. The Bridge introduces the main puzzle solving mechanic straight away, as the only way to interrupt his loud snoring and wake him up is to rotate the very world itself. Doing so shakes a few apples off the tree, causing one to fall on his head and rouse him from his rest, paying homage to Isaac Newton, a small taster of things to come.
Puzzles are solved by changing your perspective on the world, thus altering the gravity. Not far from the apple tree is your home (however, walk the opposite way, and you will simply return to where you started). Behind doors in your home are corridors, each with six puzzle rooms. Upon entering a room, you must simply reach the exit, which is usually locked by a number of keys or a pressure sensitive button. Collecting the keys and reaching the exit becomes an exercise in mind-bending logic, with you having to rotate the room in various ways. The rooms are often impossibly shaped, with surfaces looping back around on themselves. You will be walking on walls and ceilings as if they were normal floors, and allowing gravity to bring the vital keys to you.
It is not easy by any stretch of the imagination, and just to make it even harder are giant carved boulders, called “Menaces” which will instantly crush you if you come into contact with them. I found the faces carved onto the balls to be reminiscent of the enemies in puzzle classic Braid, and the similarities continue, as if you do die, you are able to rewind time and try again. This does not erase your mistakes however, in fact, quite the opposite. Once he has been killed, your character is forever etched into the game world in the throes of death, even after you have rewound time, as a reminder of your misfortunes. A particularly difficult puzzle will leave a tragic number of monochrome scribbles dotted around the screen. The Menaces are not the only thing to worry about either, as although the puzzles must be solved using gravity, it can also be your enemy. If you have nothing to fall onto, you will simply fall forever off the screen, forcing you to rewind. Equally, you can lose essential keys this way, but the game always does a good job of telling you if you have lost something essential to solving the puzzle.
New mechanics are introduced behind each door in your house, but they are not always explained as much as I felt they needed to be. The Bridge attempts to teach you mechanics by allowing you to solve basic puzzles with them, rather than putting some text on screen, but I occasionally found myself becoming used to them more by luck than skill, and was sometimes still unsure of their actual workings even after several puzzles. There is no hint system, but this is not necessarily a bad thing, as it allows you to work through each challenge on your own, and gives you a great sense of accomplishment when you complete one.
There is a small hint of a mysterious story told through text after completing each corridor. The real star of the game though is the complexity of the puzzles rather than the narrative. Once you cross the eponymous bridge at what is ostensibly the end of the game, you actually unlock “The Mirror World”. In the mirror world, you can go back to previously visited puzzles, which will look the same but have extra challenges in store. It may sound like a lazy rehash, but the puzzles do change enough to keep it from becoming a grind. Despite occasionally not knowing exactly what to do, for the most part I was enjoying figuring out each solution.
Think in new ways
Despite a few flaws, The Bridge is a very good puzzle game. The pacing felt great, as the game throws new challenges at you just as you begin to understand the old ones. It is undeniably pretty to look at, and is accented by a simple but fitting soundtrack. You are forced to think in new ways, and the promise of new puzzles keeps driving you forward. I enjoyed my time crossing The Bridge, and I am sure those looking for a clever puzzler will too.
Clever puzzles. Lovely hand drawn art style.
Mechanics are not always explained fully. Forgettable story.