Building bridges doesn’t exactly sound like it would make for fun gaming, does it? Developer Dry Cactus would certainly like to change your mind. Along comes Poly Bridge, a cute physics-based puzzle game on PC, via Steam’s Early Access system.
Starting the game for the first time, the tutorial leaps into action to teach you the basics of bridge building. You start in the building view, with a basic, 2D representation of the level. Red dots denote the beginning and end of each stage, with further red dots showing other building points that may or may not be integral to the structure of your bridge. Using this view, you are taught about the materials you can use (road, wood and steel are the ones you’ll use most often) and, using the simple point and click control scheme, you will draw out your design and attempt to get a set vehicle from one end to the other.
Once you’ve created your bridge design, a quick click of the ‘start simulation’ button (or a press of the space bar) will change the view to 3D and set everything in motion. In this view, the gorgeously stylised, cartoony bikes, cars, buses, and many other vehicle types make their way from point A to B – as long as your structure remains intact, of course.
There will be many failures in your bridge-building future, some of them hilarious, but every time the poor driver falls to his/her death in a shower of concrete and wood and steel, it’s a lesson as to where your design was weak. Literally. There’s a stress feature in simulation mode, with joints changing colour from green to red, signalling where the structure needs reinforcing for the next attempt. There’s a real feeling of accomplishment when you get a particularly tough design right, especially as there are some real head-scratchers later on.
Poly Bridge does a good job with its difficulty curve, periodically introducing new challenges as you get further into the game. There are a few that stretch this limit now and again, but most of them can be beaten through patience and a system of trial and error. Many designs do end up as a spiderweb of wood or steel during the earlier stages, some later on won’t even work as real bridges, but as long as you get the vehicles to their destinations, the bridge doesn’t have to survive the journey. Is this a failing of the game? Maybe it is but, as with Besiege, half of the fun is in finding ridiculous solutions to levels. And when some levels require you to build jumps, why would you ever expect total realism?
The difficulty level isn’t tied to the budgets for each stage, either. If you go over budget but still build a successful bridge, the game will allow you to progress to the next stage. You don’t even have to complete every stage to move on to the next world, only a certain percentage. There are currently three worlds at the time of writing, with around twelve stages in each one, and more worlds are due to be added over time, which will mean that your £8.99 gets you over thirty levels right now, with over fifty expected by the time Poly Bridge leaves Early Access.
Early Access does mean that bugs are present in the game, as it isn’t actually finished yet. Luckily, these are already extremely rare in the main game. The bulk of the bugs come when entering Sandbox mode, unlocked after completing the first world. Sandbox intends on giving players the ability to craft their own puzzles for others to solve. You can build a level, decide on the budget and if there will be restrictions on available resources, and then share your creation via Steam Workshop. When I attempted to use this feature however, it broke multiple times but it was possible to see the potential of this level editor, once the game is completed.
The social aspect doesn’t end there, either. At the end of each simulation attempt, whether successful or not, you can share the replay online. A random replay option on the main menu allows players to watch these attempts, sometimes they’ll give you ideas for bridge designs and others they’ll just entertain.
Poly Bridge is already a fun game, whether you’re into puzzle games or not. It never rushes you, its soothing soundtrack keeps things relaxed, it even entertains its players during spectacular failures. It’s well worth your £8.99 even before all the content is added, which means that once Dry Cactus adds the final levels and fixes Sandbox mode (unlocking endless potential for player-created levels), Poly Bridge will only get better and better.
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