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.
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
DexX is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez