Many moons ago when I was a youngster, I remember playing a game with my nana whenever she used to babysit me, in what I now realise was a sneaky ploy in getting me to read more- we would look at the pictures and pretend we were in them. She would ask me questions like what could I see and hear, and one such picture always stuck in my memory. It was a black and white sketch, found in one of those puzzle adventure books, where the floor became the ceiling and the pillars seemed to flip from the foreground to the background with stairs on the ceiling, and I remember being fascinated as I tried to trace a path through this surreal landscape in the wells of my imagination. As an adult, I learned that these topsy-turvy images were made famous by M. C. Escher, and The Bridge takes these as inspiration for what is a charming, if relatively short puzzle game.
Playing as an unnamed Professor, the aim is to navigate each self-contained level to the door, flipping the landscape around the centre of the screen with the use of the left and right triggers. Such a simple setup we have seen used before, where flipping the landscape is a crucial means to an end, and it is hard not to play The Bridge and make immediate comparisons to Fez, which to be honest isn’t that much of a bad thing. Equally, the hand drawn sketch quality of the game’s design harks back to Braid, and this is only reinforced by having the ability to rewind time with the B button should a mistake be made. Both games are Indie classics, and The Bridge doesn’t suffer for drawing on such games mechanics for inspiration.
With this in mind controls are relatively simple – walk left and right with the analogue stick, spin the level with the triggers and rewind time to erase any mistakes with B. Visually the game can be confusing enough, and keeping the controls simple ensures you never have the problem of getting trapped or messing up a level because you pressed the wrong button.
The story plays out as you navigate through the Professor’s house,with each chapter a room in his home that then contains 6 levels. The game isn’t overly reliant on its plot, and I found I was just plodding through each level on a chapter by chapter basis. Each chapter introduces a new game mechanic to contend with that does work well to keep the levels fresh, such as Menaces, balls that can crush you should you flip the level in such a way that you come into contact with one, or the Vortex that allows you to flip each level without being effected by gravity of the room. This set up works well, with each Chapter introducing a new mechanic that builds on what has gone before, and the levels swiftly ramp up in difficulty as a result, but the learning curve is handled in such a way that by the time you hit the later, trickier levels you know you should be able to work your way to the door with some careful navigation, but will spend a good while fighting frustration in order to get there.
For me, the biggest annoyance when playing The Bridge was the Gamerscore awarded for each Achievement. To some, this will be a minor complaint that can easily be ignored, but if (like me) you are quite anal about your Gamerscore, then the Achievements in The Bridge are sure to send a shiver down your spine – if you couldn’t care less, go ahead and skip this rant. Now, I have spent a good few years amassing a Gamerscore I am quite proud of, and although my Xbox has taken a back seat so far this console generation, I am still a fan of an Achievement. I can handle my Gamerscore ending in a 0, and I can just about take it when my Gamerscore ends in a 5, knowing that it is a matter of time before I earn a 15G or another 5G to balance it out again, however a Gamerscore ending in any other number just looks plain wrong. So when the first Achievement pinged for a grand total score of 47G, I at first thought it was a mistake. Then the next one popped for 53G and it became apparent someone was playing a sick joke on me and I had to check the Achievement list to be sure, but, lo and behold, all the Achievements ended in 9’s or 1’s, 7’s or 3’s and I my little OCD Achievement hunter went into metaphorical meltdown hyperventilating into a little imaginary paper bag. Who would be so sick to do such a thing? After a few choice swear words my frustration quickly turned to admiration, as I realised this ploy is sure to get people playing until the numbers balance out again – clearly I’m not the only one who likes my Gamerscore ending in a 5 or a 0. This ploy worked, for me anyway – I wasn’t quitting The Bridge until my Gamerscore was divisible by 5 again.
The time I spent with The Bridge I enjoyed. It’s art style is charming, the levels handy enough to jump in for a quick fix or a longer splurge depending on your mood, and one of my faults is that it was too short. The Bridge does offer up a Mirrored world upon completion that does require you to think about each level differently, but with persistence and determination each level can be completed with nothing more than brute force trial and error -if you ever get stuck, rewind to the last place you were happy with using the B button, or else start the level again. This is at times a great inclusion, especially during the later stages of the game, and I assure you it is a feature you will make use of.
So should you buy The Bridge? If you enjoy puzzlers, The Bridge is entertaining and does offer up some unique challenges, but as mentioned earlier comparison’s to Fez (spin the world mechanic) and Braid (artstyle) are justified, but in my eyes serve as a good thing as both these games are shining lights in the Indie game scene. The late levels can be tricky and will have you pausing while you go and make a cup of tea before throwing the controller in a fit of rage, but often the solution to each level can be found by trial and error with enough patience. The Bridge is a good example of an Xbox arcade title done well, and if you want something to whittle away the weekend with, The Bridge stands as a very good option.
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