Ok, so you like thinking puzzles? Try these on for size. 1) If you have 2 bottles of beer, and you add 1 more, how many bottles of beer do you have? 2) Giving your answer in Klingon, what is the square root of 3687643098.287257? 3) Why is what? 4) If you take a Poodle and a squashed tin of lemons, what is the colour of Bob the friendly mongoose?
Confused? Great! That is what The Bridge excels at. It is a rather quirky little puzzle game; the indie brainchild of just 2 people. It attempts to blend the artwork of the renowned M.C.Escher, with equally twisted physics-based puzzles, into the format of game. If you have ever seen Escher’s artwork, you will know that this is no mean feat at all. It is a convoluted explosion of impossible, intersected architecture and abstract ideas. Not only that, but the game’s art-style is in the form of a black and white lithograph.
To give fair credit to the dynamic duo behind this title, the visuals are incredible. Not only does the artwork serve as a backdrop, but it is also the basis for the puzzles themselves. It is safe to say that The Bridge has hit new ground with this aesthetic. That said, art for the sake of art in a game can sometimes be a hindrance to the gameplay. Generally the gameplay of The Bridge is not adversely affected in this way, aside from the lack of definition in the black and white colour scheme, meaning it is sometimes hard to see exactly what door you just unlocked, or which key needs to be collected.
So, back to the puzzles. The Bridge delights in giving you a puzzle so patently simple that you imagine you are pretty smart for solving it so quickly. Then it will rub that in your face by throwing something so soul-destroyingly awkward and nonsensical at you, that you question your very will to live. It feels as though some puzzles were properly planned out, and well-executed. Then other puzzles were in production, and an accidental slip or fall led to an unexpected solution, which the devs decided to keep. So although the majority of the puzzles can be solved by canny thinking, some are just a case of trial and error until you clumsily stumble upon the answer.
There is also a small matter of genre confusion. The Bridge cannot decide if it wants to be a puzzle game, or an action platformer. Certain levels are pure puzzle, but certain levels are almost exclusively based upon swift precision movement. If a game manages to master puzzles and action, that’s all well and good. But the action sections are severely handicapped by the controls. Your character is a clumsy fellow who slithers frustratingly at the slightest slope or angle. There are also other control inconsistencies that make all action-based puzzles something of an ordeal, rather than something enjoyable.
The Bridge has attained huge critical interest, and rightly so, for it is a truly unique game, with a unique twist. It has a moderate lifespan of 5+ hours, depending on your grey matter and digit-dexterity. Part of that time will be spent in genuine enjoyment, as you bask in the warm glow and smugness of knowing you were bright enough to figure out the solution. And part of the time, you will be tearing out your hair, wondering why on earth logic has been abandoned in favour of a confused mess. But, there are certainly rewards to be reaped if you persevere through the clunky bits.
By the way, the mongoose was blue.