At first glance, The Bridge looks like a pretty straightforward 2D puzzle platformer. You use the WASD keys to move left, right, up and down, and in each level you are typically tasked with the seemingly simple objective of getting from A to B.
Then you realize that the arrow keys rotate the walls and the floors, and most of the levels resemble M.C. Escher paintings. At this point your brain might start to hurt a little bit – that’s OK. As you progress the game becomes gradually more complex, as the degree to which you have to manipulate gravity, physics and perspective becomes more and more complex.
The game opens up with the player’s character having a casual lounge under a tree, when an apple suddenly falls and lands on his head. It’s an obvious reference to Isaac Newton’s realisation of gravity, and it serves to communicate to the player that gravity is a fundamental gameplay mechanism in The Bridge. This is not immediately apparent in the first few levels, which are quite straightforward, but you gradually learn that manipulating this fundamental force is really what the game is about.
It doesn’t end there though, no sir. There’s a lot you can do in terms of gameplay just by allowing players to manipulate gravity, but why not throw in time travel as well? One of the nice things about The Bridge is that whenever your character dies, or something bad happens, you can rewind time and avoid making the same mistake. Although it’s not a true game-design changer, it does make the experience a little more forgiving, and ultimately less frustrating.
One of the obvious highlights of The Bridge, for me, is the art direction. The game is rendered in black and white, with beautifully illustrated and stylised backgrounds. I mentioned it a few paragraphs back, but it’s worth bringing up again here: The Bridge also draws heavily from the art of M.C. Escher. Escher questions the nature of physical reality with his art, and The Bridge does the same thing with its game design. So it’s kind of brilliant that the art direction matches up accordingly.
I couldn’t help being reminded a little bit of the iconic classic, Braid, which also marries beautiful visual design with interesting physics and time warping game design. From the main character, to the items and environments, you can tell that The Bridge was designed with love and no effort was spared in terms of attention to detail. The sound effects are also suitably atmospheric and brilliantly fitting.
You can easily tell that I have been won over by The Bridge, but you don’t have to take my word for it. The game has won numerous awards, including being selected as one of The PAX 10 (a collection of ten of the best indie games on show at the Penny Arcade Expo, as decided by “50 industry experts”) at PAX 2012. It also won Achievement in Gameplay and Achievement in Art Direction awards at Indie Game Challenge 2012, as well as being the overall winner of the Seattle Independent Game Competition 2011, amidst a bunch of other accolades.
With 48 unique and interesting puzzles to complete, The Bridge is not short of content, and with a price tag of $14.99 via Steam, it’s a no-brainer for anyone who has an appreciation for games that offer something more cerebral and alternative.