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Indie review: The Bridge

The Bridge is gorgeous and gently-paced, but some of its more taxing puzzles will have to tearing your hair out.

The Bridge is gorgeous and gently-paced, but some of its more taxing puzzles will have to tearing your hair out.

I'm trying something new on Tuesdays, a kind of indie follow-up to Jason Hill's traditional Monday review.

So many excellent studio-made games have been coming out recently that I have amassed a backlog of smaller games that I am yet to write about. As such, in addition to the weekly news round-up, Tuesday will also be the regular day for short reviews of casual iOS games, independent PC games, and so on.

First up is The Bridge, an amazing debut effort from a pair of talented newcomers - designer and programmer Ty Taylor and artist Mario Castaneda. The pair has created a hauntingly beautiful black and white world inspired by the striking lithographs of the famously mind-bending Dutch artist M. C. Escher.

Simple room rotation is quickly complicated by deadly balls, inescapable vortexes, and more.

Simple room rotation is quickly complicated by deadly balls, inescapable vortexes, and more.

The central gameplay mechanic of The Bridge is the ability to rotate gravity left and right while simultaneously controlling your character on the screen. With these two basic controls, your goal in each of the game's brief, single-screen levels is to get the man to the door. The whole experience is very slowly and deliberately paced, and your character walks slowly and cannot jump.

It starts simply, tasking you to rotate room so the roughly-sketched protagonist can walk up the wall and across the ceiling, but gradually more and more elements are added to complicate matters. First the doors are locked, meaning you need to get to the key before you can exit. Next there are deadly balls that look like evil, leering faces that roll according to changing gravity and kill you with a touch.

Early levels are fairly easy, gently introducing the player to new concepts and then ramping up the difficulty, then introducing another new concept and ramping further. Soon enough, though, you will be cursing as the key you need to unlock the door falls out into space or you get the exit unlocked only to find it is now blocked by a deadly ball. Thankfully there is a time-rewind control, much like Braid's, so you don't have to re-do the entire level after a momentary slip.

After completing the first 25 levels, the game felt somewhat short and unsatisfying, so I was pleased to find that after the game's apparent ending there is a whole set of 25 new puzzles. These are mirrored versions of the first 25, but with extra elements thrown in to make them even harder. You might have solved that level easily the first time, but what if instead of one ball, there are five? What if you have to control two characters instead of one, and they have their own keys and exit doors that need to be collected and opened simultaneously?

While a few of the first set of puzzles left me scratching my head, I always managed to progress without too much difficulty, but the second set is absolutely fiendish at times. After restarting one level a dozen times I shook my head and said, "This is impossible!" I was wrong, of course, but I was completely stumped for a long time.

The puzzles are tied together with a story as surreal as the visuals, and again like Braid it is delivered in the form of text blocks that pop up between chapters. It's hard to say precisely what it is all about, but there are hints of parallel worlds and other metaphysical stuff. Also tying in with the twisted visuals and surreal story is the simple, haunting musical score.

Puzzle fans of all kinds should definitely pick up The Bridge, with anyone who loved the mind-twisting puzzles and surreal storytelling of games like Braid or The Misadventures of P. B. Winterbottom being particularly urged to take a look. You can either get it right now for its full price of $15, or later during an inevitable Steam sale or Humble Indie Bundle if you want it cheaper.

Tyler and Castenada have crafted something very polished and entertaining, an amazing achievement for a first game. I hope this debut effort will be a big success for them, and I will be keeping an eye out for whatever they dream up next.

How about you, Screen play readers? Played any good indie games recently?

 - James "DexX" Dominguez

twitter DexX is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez

4 comments so far

  • FTL. I played this for about an hour again last night after playing for hours on the weekend.

    It works so well, plenty of upgrade options, random drops, challenging strategies and that one more beacon, one more sector, one more restart effect.

    I do like naming my crew; I had Black Adder on the helm, Percy on the Shields and Baldric on the weapons (relegated to the engines when another crew member arrives).

    Best effort is still Sector 7.

    Great game, highly recommended.

    Still trying to out run rebels
    Date and time
    March 19, 2013, 8:40AM
    • I find that unless I wipe out early I feel drained after putting in the effort for a run. But I love the way it forces you to keep adapting your strategy. A nice weapon drop or the contents of a shop can completely change how you were planning on playing through.

      Lucid Fugue
      Date and time
      March 19, 2013, 11:09AM
  • Good idea, DexX, always happy to see more indie games. I've been thinking of checking out The Bridge, love the style.

    Good indie games...

    Miasmata really sucked me in. Great tension and exploration, though it's probably one for more patient players.

    I've been playing a lot of Twine games, Depression Quest and Christine Love's Even Cowgirls Bleed are particularly worth a look.

    I am about to finish VESPER.5, meaning I must have played for at least 100 days (one step per day). I think I'm really going to miss it.

    Date and time
    March 19, 2013, 10:11AM
    • Love the indie review idea! The only thing I'd request is that the platform is included towards the start - you mentioned you'll look at iOS games etc too, so whilst reading the article I wasn't sure if it was a PC indie game, or something on iOS, or perhaps something on the 360 (which was my first thought, given the dual sticks potentially being used for player and gravity control).

      Date and time
      March 20, 2013, 9:10AM

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