I love puzzle games; the challenge of figuring out a given puzzle and the reward of fulfillment after completion just appeal to me. However, The Bridge is a puzzle game that does neither of these for me, and ended up simply leaving a bad taste in my mouth.
In The Bridge you take control of a nameless, bearded man who awakens under a tree after an apple hits him. You then walk to his house where there are four “world” doors – each having its own respective doors that correspond to puzzle levels. You find out bits of information about the world and the protagonist after clearing each world, with a bust appearing to dole out the details.
The story however, is so sparse and given so infrequently that I found myself not caring at all about it. Even as I knew I was approaching the end of the game, I cared so little about the narrative that I was just rushing to finish The Bridge so I could say that it was done. The biggest letdown of all comes at the end though, as you never really find out what the bridge itself is. The game is just teaming with disappointment.
There is also a huge problem with The Bridge’s gameplay. The way the game works is that you use the Vita’s three-axis gyroscope to turn the levels left and right, which tends to get old quick because you may need to turn the world multiple times to the right, to the point where your Vita is upside down. The funny bit comes when you figure out this isn’t the only way you can rotate the world; you can use the left and right bumpers to do so as well. Why’s it so funny? Well, the game doesn’t tell you this at all and the only way you’ll find out is via hitting them by mistake.
Later on the game also adds an inversion mechanic – changing your character’s color and what in the world can affect him, and a veil – allowing you to control the direction of object’s gravity. Along with these, you can always hold the circle button to rewind time and correct a mistake. The funny thing here however, is that the gyroscope and rewind mechanics are the only thing explained to you at the beginning.
I’ve already mentioned that I stumbled across bumper control by accident, and the same is true for the inversion mechanic as well. On the level that introduces it, I wandered around for around thirty minutes trying to figure it out until I accidentally tapped the “X” button and saw the world flip upside down. Explaining only part of the controls is such a glaring design flaw that it makes you wonder what was going on in the developer’s head. The game may be a puzzle game, but when entry into it is limited because you don’t even know there are additional controls there’s a problem. Even a hint would’ve been nice.
If at this point The Bridge sounds to you like the puzzle game Braid, then you are absolutely correct; The Bridge takes so much inspiration from it in terms of mechanics, story, and art that it feels like a “wannabe” of its inspiration. You’ll even be collecting keys to open doors in order to end the level. It feels like a blatant rip-off of Braid, and yet it doesn’t capture any of the same charm or feel that made that title great.
Coupled with these poor gameplay designs is the poor distribution of difficulty across worlds and levels. The first three worlds add a different mechanic – the first has gyroscope, the second has the inversion, and the third has the gravity veils – with the fourth culminating in all three being used periodically. Naturally, I would want (and assume) that the puzzles to progress from easy to hard, with the very last level being the hardest challenge; but this simply isn’t the case. Even on the fourth world, the levels started off as hard, then were too easy, and the last level moved back to hard again. It felt very inconsistent and if you’re anything like me this will certainly annoy you.
There is some good news with the bad though; after completion of these four worlds you unlock another set of “mirrored” worlds. These are usually the exact same world, but they have a few added limitations or objects you must use. These were actually the most challenging of all, and some of them felt rewarding after completion – yet it still faced the same problem of an inconsistent difficulty curve, and I easily found myself putting down my Vita (either out of boredom, or because too difficult of a level popped up).
All these problems are very unfortunate because one of the reasons I was drawn to The Bridge – besides it being a puzzle game – was its beautiful hand-drawn art. Seriously, it’s absolutely gorgeous. The game is in black and white and everything just pops; the artist behind the game did an amazing job, and you will constantly find yourself taking a look at the art and appreciating it. The music is also fairly good, with a perfect mixture of mystery and strangeness that suits the nature of the game. Sadly, both of these aren’t reason enough to purchase the game – or even enough to make you want to visit it again…
In the end, The Bridge is a mess. Before I was even a few hours into its roughly 15-hour story, I was wishing for it all to be over and that I was put out of my misery. The only plus is that if you do decide to buy The Bridge, after reading this you won’t have nearly as many problems with gameplay as I had since I have detailed the missing instructions. That said, between its desire to be a game that it isn’t, its missing explanation of gameplay controls and its lackluster, absent story… you will find yourself perturbed and wishing you hadn’t bought the puzzler. Even with its few good qualities – mainly the music and art – it’s hard to recommend this mess.