Publisher: The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild
Developer: The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild
Genre: Puzzle / Platforming
Release Dates: February 22, 2013 (EU & NA - PC) / May 16, 2014 (EU & NA - MAC & LINUX)
Price: 9,99€ (Steam)
The Bridge is a puzzle game inspired by the work of Dutch graphic artist Maurits Cornelis Escher, using perspective as a technique to mess with your brain and make seemingly impossible puzzles possible when viewed from a different angle, something that is heavily emphasized in The Bridge and mathematically calculated in each level, which makes it hard not to appreciate even if puzzle games aren't your usual cup of tea. If you have been spending a lot of time just browsing the internet you've probably come across some of those pictures of stairs where a person on the stairs seems upside down when viewed from a fixed position while others will have relative positions in the image depending on which side you're looking at the image from, and yet all of those stairs seem connected, something that seems impossible at first, but once you understand the technique it suddenly starts to make sense.
A lot of it has to do with the fact that you're presenting a 3D room in the form of a 2D image which removes the perception of depth from your brain as all elements will seem to be on the same plane, but you should always keep in mind that they are often not. Understanding that alone will help you decipher the secret behind such images, but there's also the element of optical illusion which comes into play not only in those drawings, but also in The Bridge's puzzles and while I'm not gonna go into psychological detail about how those work in general, I will say that in this game in particular looking at different puzzle elements from a different angle will often destroy that illusion barrier and help you move on with the puzzle. As an example, an element seemingly unreachable at the start will become reachable once you rotate the image clockwise 90 degrees as not only will that move the image, but also your character while having gravity come into play as well, so you will end up with a different situation entirely.
I could sit here and explain what The Bridge is for an hour and you probably still wouldn't get it as you would if you just played a level of the game for yourself, but if what I've previously described seems appealing to you and you are the type of person that enjoys a good puzzle this game might be right for you. The story is incredibly vague, as it wants to leave you thinking more than it wants to relay an actual plot, which is the right choice considering the type of game this is, but there's still a personality to your character and even the world he inhabits, and while the game wants you to draw your own conclusions about what its message is, a generally accepted idea is that you are struggling with your own sanity as the game progresses and more challenging puzzles arise, trying to turn the professor-like character that you are controlling insane as he struggles to grasp the complexity of each new challenge ahead of him.
The objective of each level is easy, your character starts in a fixed position on the level and somewhere else there's a door to the exit, which sometimes may require a key or a button to open, but the journey towards that door and finding a way to not only unlock it, but keep it unlocked for when your character reaches that position is often a very complex one that requires critical thinking. There are many levels where a ball must be placed on top of a button in order to unlock the door, but to finish the level you also have to reach that door with your character which in most cases requires you to rotate the map in order to get your character there, but that will also move the ball from its position, so puzzles are created based on logic as well as timing and in many instances you have to think a few steps ahead in order to succeed because of that reason. Thankfully the game knows that which is why there's a rewind button available at all times, allowing you to turn back time to a previous position if you've messed up.
The main element of the game is the rotation mechanic which moves the entire level clockwise or counter-clockwise using the trigger buttons, this will change the angle from which you view the level allowing you see things that you might have not noticed from your previous position, as well as move other elements in the map such as balls or keys to the left or right and at the same time that also applies to your character, on top of the gravity rules. The difference between an element that can only be moved by rotating the map and your character is that you can also walk while the level is in a fixed position, allowing you to reach another point and then use the rotation mechanic and the rules of gravity to make your character fall into the position you want him to be, which might have not been possible without walking to that point first.
While that covers the basics of the game, once you do get past the first few levels more elements will be introduced including a vortex that will absorb anything that comes near it and a veil that will protect your character from moving while rotating the map when inside, so as long as you stay in the veil your character will remain there no matter how much you rotate the map and in which direction. An even more complex mechanic is introduced later in the form of double dimensions which will make a light or dark version of your character depending on the portals you go through, each portal will change your character to the opposite version so if you go in a portal with your character being dark, you will come out the opposite portal light, the catch here being that you can only interact with elements that are your color, so if you approach a dark door while in light form you won't be able to enter it.
While everything that I've described above may seem overwhelming, all of those elements will be gradually introduced into the game as you progress, giving you plenty of time to adjust to each new mechanic and get a grasp on how it works, but once you do get past that introductory stage of the game, the final chapters will make use of all of those elements in order to create some incredibly complex puzzles that might put your brain into overclock mode, especially in the mirrored worlds which take levels from the main worlds and twists them around, adding even more hazards in the way. While a vast majority of levels are mainly focused on logic and thinking a few steps ahead, some are more concentrated on timing while being smaller in scale, this means that on those levels the solution will be more obvious, but require more rewinds in order to just get it right timing-wise, which feels like a step down from the superb design of other levels where you can take your time to think it through. Considering every centimetre is important in this game, having a smooth running gameplay mechanic is important, so physics play a huge role in puzzle design and it all works flawlessly; there are no glitches, weird physics or bugs, it just works as it's supposed to, allowing you to enjoy the carefully thought out design of each level to its fullest.
When I mentioned that The Bridge is inspired by the drawings of M.C Escher I wasn't only referring to the main idea behind the game, but also the graphics, as the game is presented only in black and white and every level feels like it was pencil drawn very carefully in order to create the desired optical illusions. That aesthetic gives The Bridge a very unique look and while just looking at a screenshot might give the impression of a very depressing world where colors are absent, once you get to actually play it that impression will change simply because everything is so carefully thought out and detailed even in the absence of colors and the ambience of the level design transmits a feeling of incubation thinking where you are alone meditating on the challenges ahead of you.
On the side of visual effects there aren't many to talk about since they aren't needed in most cases and your character is the only person you will see in the entire game, but that once again makes you feel like you are stuck inside your own mind rather than being in a populated active world, which definitely helps with the point of this entire game and the questions it wants to leave you with after reaching the end.
The sound effects are what you would expect considering there's not a lot going on in the world to need many of those, but the objects moving across ramps as you rotate the map, the keys hitting a wall while the spooky music plays in the background and your character's steps slowly approaching the point where you want to be are all very well done and contribute enormously to the feeling of the game. The soundtrack has around 30 minutes of content which means some tracks will be reused in some levels, but that shouldn't bother you at all because the game isn't long enough for you to hear the same track more than a few times and the calmly yet spooky tunes fit the ambient of the game perfectly.
You can finish the main game in around 4 hours, more or less depending on how long it takes you to find the solution to some of the harder levels, but after you finish the four chapters that make up the main game, mirrored chapters will be unlocked twisting the main four chapters and adding more obstacles or adding more complexity to the puzzles. Aside from that there are a few more challenges in the form of achievements that may keep you busy for another hour or two, so if you really dig The Bridge there's 8-10 hours of content in total for you to play around with.
The Bridge is one of the best 2D puzzle games that I have ever played and definitely on top when it comes to its unique appeal, and while not all levels are of the same quality and ingenuity, most of them will require the full power of your brain to get through which is what a puzzle game is supposed to do, so if the idea behind The Bridge seems appealing to you, pick it up and give it a try because you will most likely enjoy it.