by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Build a Bridge and Get Over It
With the number of Early Access games that stagnate and die before they ever see the light of day, it is nice to see a game like Dry Cactus’ Poly Bridge fly into release as a polished, completed, deeply entertaining game that lives up to its initial promise. Despite the physics based puzzler being far from a rarity in the market today, Poly Bridge accomplishes what it sets out to do with enough charm and challenge to elevate itself above most of its contemporaries.
The “main” way to play Poly Bridge is a satisfyingly lengthy campaign, which walks you through increasingly challenging and complex puzzles you’ll have to solve. Despite the simple premise of getting vehicles across a gap, there are a surprisingly large amount of tools at your disposal that you’ll need to master to do what you need to do. It can get complicated quickly, but the game does a pretty decent job of walking you through how everything works in a few introductory tutorial maps. I do wish the tutorials would have been spread throughout the campaign - I learned about things that I didn’t use until much later, after I’d forgotten about how they work - but it is not much effort to go back to the beginning and replay something to refresh your memory. None of the mechanics or gameplay elements are really going to be new or surprising to anyone that’s ever played a similar game before, but everything is done well enough that I didn’t really mind much.
It’s never that difficult to construct a bridge to get things where they need to go, but doing so efficiently introduces ample challenge. Not only do you have to accomplish your goal, but you need to do so under a certain budget. Additionally, after you do complete a level, you're shown what global percentile you fall under for budget, maximum stress your bridge was under, and material footprint. That means that even if you succeed, you get a little voice in the back of your head saying you didn’t really do a good job since 99 percent of the population did it better. The game is also open enough in some levels that you can tackle challenges from a multitude of different angles, which get reflected in these post-challenge stats. You know you did something different if you’re in the top percent for something, or if all three are all over the place. I spent a lot of time replaying levels that I had already beaten just to try and improve my global rank, which added a ton of replay value beyond what’s already there.
Going all the way
Of course, sometimes you don’t want to have to worry about being cost-efficient, using less material, or minimizing stress on your structure. As is the case with other building games such as Besiege or Kerbal Space Program, sometimes the most fun to be had comes from designing the biggest, nastiest, most ridiculous answer to the problem at hand that you can come up with, which is exactly what you’ll want to head into sandbox mode for. It’s for this reason that Poly Bridge has really stuck in my head the past week or so. There’s a certain beauty in bringing to fruition ideas that pop into your head walking around town or lying in bed, Poly Bridge does a great job of granting you the flexibility to do so. After you’ve mastered the basic mechanics of the different materials and tools, new doors will open up as you understand how they can interact and work together, whether they were designed to do so or not.
Beyond its gameplay, Poly Bridge is a stunningly beautiful game. Its minimalistic low-polygon visual design is crisp, smooth, and bursting with colors that match its relaxing, laid back tone. Whenever I play a game that I like, I try to take a screenshot or two to throw into my PC wallpaper rotation to remember my time with it. Sometimes it can be hard to find something clean enough to use as such, but that was far from the case here. Almost every instant in Poly Bridge is like a painting. This beauty extends to the soundtrack as well, which is a simply delightful medley of light folk. You’re able to purchase the soundtrack on Steam for a couple of bucks, and this is one of the very few instances where I actually recommend thinking about doing so if you enjoy listening to non-intrusive music while you read, work, study, clean, or anything else.
Poly Bridge is a game beautiful in its simplicity, doing everything a good physics-based puzzle game should do. It hides depth under simple concepts, rewards creative thinking, and maintains consistent physics for reliable results. Whether you want to pull your hair out trying to climb the leaderboard in campaign challenges, or let life’s problems melt away to soothing music and crashing station wagons in campaign mode, this is a game that’s very difficult not to like, and one that most everyone should try.
Beautiful, huge flexibility, consistent physics, ample challenge.
Doesn’t really do anything different.