There is something disgustingly tantalizing about a really difficult puzzle. Maybe it is a masochistic delight in wrestling with something that feels much, much smarter than you, making impossibly complex attempts to solve it, and then finally realizing the best solution was the elegant one.
The Bridge feels like that. It is a mind-bending game that plays with physics and geometry in the ways a killer whale plays with a seal. The game takes its mechanics from the surreal mathematics of M C Escher’s paintings.
The storyline of this game doesn’t immediately reveal itself. Much like the archetypal indie puzzler Braid, the storyline grows around the edges of the game as you play. In The Bridge, the storyline is even fuzzier, more a looming shadow of what one can only assume is some kind of Lovecraftian experiments with Eldritch mathematics. This gives the game an eerie, tense atmosphere highlighted further with the sketch-like visuals, based on old lithographs, and creepy soundtrack.
The gameplay itself builds steadily upwards from the basic mechanic: “A” and “D” to walk left and right, “left” and “right” arrow to rotate the entire world. You use this to get from the start, around some impossible geometry, and make it to the door at the end of the level. This involves dodging psychotic-looking round monsters known only as “The Menace”, phasing through barriers and not falling into infinite space. Also, chasing keys that have anti-gravity around a circular room.
The biggest challenge for The Bridge to overcome was the fact that Braid and Limbo set the bar so damn high. What makes The Bridge so impressive is that it met these expectations effortlessly. In fact, it succeeds in one area that both its predecessors struggled – making its puzzles difficult but achievable through more than just wonton trial and error. The Bridge never pushes you beyond patience to resort to a walk-through. Instead, it tantalizes you with the knowledge that you should be able to do this, but can’t quite figure out how to get it right.
The game has some good replay value as well. There are, as is to be expected now, a number of achievements to unlock. What I like here (being an achievement naysayer), is that the achievements actually are pretty difficult to do. No “you walked left!” achievements, but rather highly challenging achievements that often require a near-perfect run of a level in order to unlock. Further value is added by the inclusion of the “mirror” levels once you have finished the initial game. These, as is expected, look almost exactly like the original levels, but with new challenges that make them insanely challenging. Recommended for hardcore puzzlers!