Ever wondered what it’d be like to actually walk around one of those crazy, physics defying, M.C. Escher lithographs? To walk around a world in which the normal rules of everyday life don’t apply? Well, thanks to the fantastically named, The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild, you now have the chance.
Combining the stark black and white world of Escher-like artistry with actual physics-based conundrums is in itself an inspired concept, and while it certainly feels somewhat unique in regards to its puzzle-heavy gameplay, there is no getting around the games’ familiarity to 2008’s, Braid. The similarities don’t make the game any less enjoyable, it’s just that, despite the unique concept, the very deliberate ambience (not to mention the rewind mechanic) immediately evoke the spirit of Braid.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with evoking Braid in your game design (there are certainly worse games to take inspiration from), it simply means that The Bridge, despite its decidedly distinctive art design, never felt quite as unique as it could have. It’s still a visually and mechanically very interesting game, but for me at least, it never quite escaped Braid’s rather overbearing shadow. Some may find the comparison unfair given the very different nature of each games’ core gameplay, but between the rewind feature and that whimsically dark tone, there is no getting around the fact that The Bridge loses a sense of initial impact as a result.
Still, judged on its own terms, The Bridge is unquestionably a very enjoyable, visually appealing puzzle platformer. There are moments of frustration and sometimes there can be a disconnect between the tactile, physical requirements and the logic-based, mental gymnastics needed to complete each stage, but for the most part, this is a game that successfully combines its visual goals with its simple but ultimately effective core mechanics to create a world that celebrates its art by essentially making it the game itself.
Drawn into each individual single-screen stage, The Bridge tasks you with taking your rather glum looking pencil drawn protagonist to the exit door of each level. The kicker is – you don’t actually have any power over the character on-screen. Well, you can move him, but instead of having direct control, you instead have the ability to rotate each stage either left or right in a full 360 degree turn, thus allowing the power of gravity to do the work for you. Sure, your character does walk along quite happily (unless it’s into a vortex of course), but it’s only due to the ground below his feet being moved via rotations to the left or right. It actually reminded me of thebrilliant LocoRoco, only, you know, without the jumping……or the happiness……or the singing.
While the early stages are all relatively straight forward, it’s clear right from the off that the game is making clever use of that distinct Escher-esque art-style. Sure, it gives the word a unique look, but more importantly, it allows the puzzles to play upon the changes in perspective and the way that they are effected by the constant alterations to the world’s gravity. Of course, things become more complex as your progress with multiple keys, one-hit-kill wrecking balls and deadly vortexes added to make life that little more difficult, but regardless of these additions, the fundamentals remain the same – you rotate the world and attempt to dictate the resultant actions of the protagonist and the other items and obstacles that inhabit the world.
The Bridge never becomes unduly unfair, but there are a few moments later in the game in which it becomes somewhat unclear as towhether you are on right track. It’s not that the game is fiddly per se, it’s just that there are occasions in which it becomes unclear whether your progression is being blocked by your lack of logical thinking or whether you are simply struggling with the actual physical action of getting your bearded buddy into the correct position. Of course, you could argue that such a struggle is part of the point (and often it is), but there are certainly moments in which the level design does clash with your natural, logical progression.
Saying that, the aforementioned rewind feature does keep frustration to a minimum, and outside of the occasional design hiccup, The Bridge offers an array of beautifully crafted and gorgeously designed stages that work fantastically alongside the physics-based system that essentially dictates all aspects of your control over the game world. It’s not the longest game out there, (most will get through in just a few hours), but despite its relatively short length and its more obvious tonal resemblances to Braid, The Bridge nonetheless stands as a fantastic example of puzzle platforming, one that shines all the brighter thanks to its wonderful, Escher-inspired art design.
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