You gotta love small, independent developers. Like previous critical darlings Braid, Limbo, and Fez, The Bridge is a stylistic and innovative puzzle game that will keep you engrossed in its unique, exquisite, and mind-bending world.
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360 (Version Played)
Publisher: Midnight City
Developer: The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild
Genre: Puzzle Platformer With an Escher Twist
Release Date: February 22, 2013 (PC), November 13, 2013 (XBLA)
ESRB Rating: Everyone
This physics-based puzzler follows the journey of an unnamed scientist as he progresses through various fantastical worlds. The aesthetic design is stunning for both its detail and simplicity. The hand-drawn environments are like beautifully crafted lithographs, and look amazing in basic black and white. Stylistically, the game is heavily influenced by the twisty, topsy-turvy artwork of M.C. Escher, known for his mind-bendingly impossible structures where floors can be walls and ceilings at the same time. In fact, the game takes Escher’s work one step further by appropriately giving you the ability to rotate the world to make the walls or ceiling your floor – a very cool and vital tool to solving the puzzles and unlocking the door to the next level.
The 2D puzzles start off fairly easy; some can be solved in well under a minute. The difficulty builds at a comfortable pace, however, with the addition of new challenges like deadly Menace balls that can roll around and crush you as you rotate the level (darn physics and gravity!), a vortex that sucks up anything nearby, and parallel universes that change how you can interact with the world. Eventually, some of the later puzzles will give your brain a very thorough and lengthy workout.
You will fail a lot, either by getting stuck in a bad spot or getting crushed by the Menace ball, but don’t worry – you can simply rewind back to any previous point of your choosing and try again. As with most puzzlers, you will enjoy some great “Aha!” moments when you finally figure out the solution, especially towards the end of the game. All 24 levels are unique and interesting, and will keep you entertained from start to finish. Once you finish the game, you unlock mirror versions of the original levels, but with additional challenges like Menace balls that weren’t there before. These modified levels can be really tough and require a long, sometimes frustrating, time to figure out – but when you do solve them, you feel like a genius.
Even with the additional mirror levels, once you solve the puzzles, there isn’t much incentive to replay the game. There are no leaderboards or stats, which is a bit of a shame since it would have been great to compare your performance against others on things like solution time, number of rotations, and other factors. But perhaps adding a competitive element goes against the grain of the game. The Bridge can be really challenging at times, yet is also strangely relaxing, thanks to the cool aesthetics and soothing (though repetitive) music.
Overall, huge kudos go to developers Ty Taylor and Mario Castaneda for creating an innovative, fun, and entertaining game. Even with the limited replayability, you will enjoy the unique puzzles, beautiful artwork, and fresh thinking from an independent studio. And appropriately enough, the game itself has an interesting back story: it originally started as a project for Ty’s Master’s Degree in Computer Science, with Mario contributing as part of a project for his Art minor. Who knew homework could turn out to be both fun and profitable?
Review Disclosure: A review copy of The Bridge was provided by Midnight City for the purposes of this review.