Review: The Bridge
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I feel super conflicted about this one. On the one hand, I’m sure The Bridge was plenty impressive when it came out four years ago, with its beautiful sketchpad art and mind-bending puzzles. On the other hand, I’m just not getting the kind of gratification out of it that I get from something like Braid or Limbo. I’ll get into why specifically in a moment, so take this review as less of a dismissal and more of an exploration of its issues. I couldn’t find the will to get through it despite my love of puzzles and Escher, but maybe you can.
The Bridge is the story of a tiny professor as he puzzles through the strange and impossible worlds branching out from his home. There are four worlds of six puzzles each, and completing all six gets you a brief snippet of a larger story about how this came to be. It’s fine flavor for the game but the real meat is the puzzles, with a side of excellent art presenting them as a surrealist master would from his sketchpad. Completing the game once grants you access to hard versions of the same 24 puzzles and more of the story, so if you enjoy the challenges on tap you’ll get more of the same, but only that.
Those challenges take the form of twisting fragments of worlds that obey their own rules of logic. Walkways curve around in perfect circles, bridges cross each other at impossible angles, and trees float in the pastoral void. There’s a door that leads out of each puzzle, and it’s almost always locked by key, multiple keys, or pressure plate. To get your Freud-looking fellow to all of these points, you can walk left and right, or rotate the entire world either direction. There’s no jumping here, and while the prof doesn’t take falling damage he does slide around on inclines like his loafers are greased, so most of the action is going to be rotating the world into place for your shuffling scholar.
It’s not quite that simple, because the game will quickly introduce gaps that can send you sailing out into the void and giant boulders to crush you flat. The game cleverly allows you to rewind time rather than restart, a move straight out of Braid, but this is never used as a puzzle mechanic so don’t get your hopes up. Honestly, despite the Escher-inspired chambers and additional gimmicks introduced like mirror clones, the puzzles just don’t have much depth to them. Each one is a single screen large and has to be completed by some combination of walking and rotating, so most of the solutions are going to be immediately apparent. And once they become more challenging it’s not from building on the mechnics or forcing you to think differently, it’s just more complex networks of the same paths and boulders you’ve been negotiating up to that point.
The hallmark of great puzzle games are puzzles that make you feel like a genius when you finally work them out. Most of the puzzles in The Bridge aren’t nearly that complicated, and the ones that are doing by repeating mechanics instead of expanding upon them. There’s certainly a niche for puzzlers that are just increasingly difficult permutations of the same thing, but I expected more from The Bridge. Maybe I wouldn’t have back at its release, but in 2017 it feels lackluster among the innumerable puzzle platformers to choose from. It’s certainly not a bad game, just not one I find myself wanting to spend any more time with.