The Bridge first graced our consoles at the back end of 2013 after picking up numerous awards and accolades from various places. I have to admit I let this one pass me by the first time around because to me it looked mentally gruelling and if I’m honest, not all that exciting. Games shouldn’t be judged before getting a hands on experience but thankfully it has made the leap to the next generation and a whole load more platforms, thus presenting a second chance to gamers like me who wish to finally give it a chance.
The developers, a two man team going by the brilliant name of The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild, have created a mind boggling puzzle game inspired by the lithographic works of M.C. Escher. Just in case you aren’t familiar with the Dutch artist, he sketched a number of pieces that essentially questioned the viewer’s perceptions such as a structure containing many stairways that can be used multiple ways due to differing gravitational effects, seen in his Relativity lithograph. It’s also worth pointing out that gravity plays a huge part in The Bridge too; the laws of physics will rarely confuse you as much as they do here.
So, we start the game in a way that’s seldom seen, with a minor problem to solve where a nameless chap is napping under an apple tree and you need to wake him. You are immediately introduced to one of the most important world manipulations involved in solving the many issues ahead; being able to rotate the entire world both clockwise and anti-clockwise. A little wiggle one way and then the other a few times will lead to our main character being awoken and ready to venture into his home where all the puzzles lie.
In total there are 48 brain benders to tackle across a number of rooms and an alternative version of the house. From the moment you enter the first puzzle, you realise this isn’t going to be easy unless you think outside the box. For example to reach the exit you need to get the main man up a floor, to which there are no stairs and any simple route is seemingly cut off by a ceiling. Using the power of rotation you’ll be able to turn useless looking wall partitions into platforms to walk on in order to follow a route that really shouldn’t be possible, meaning that walls and ceilings can become floors.
The first halve of the puzzles have a natural increase when it comes down to the difficulty, where new elements are added along the way. Initially it’s just you and gravity but as you progress, menace balls get thrown in which instantly end proceedings when touched. Logic is still the way to overcome the perceived obstacles though, even when inversions turn the whole world upside down and the nameless man into a strange inverted version of himself. Near the latter end of the ‘normal’ puzzles it gets a little complicated with a veil that your man can wander into that messes with the gravity of other components.
At least I believe it affects the gravitational effects. I say that because it doesn’t tell you much about these additional parts to the puzzles, it forces you to figure it out. Fortunately you can turn back time at any point so if discovering something does lead to a death, just roll back a bit and everything is just peachy. Without this it’d be immensely frustrating, especially when it comes to those menace balls, they are lethal!
After that it’s time for the Mirrored versions of the levels you’ve already conquered, but these aren’t mirrored in every sense of the word. The structure of the levels may be reversed, however the solutions are generally a lot tougher with more menace balls, inversions etc. thrown into the mix. What also makes it more difficult is the fact that figuring out what needs to be done isn’t the sole problem; the final 24 puzzles put extra emphasis on a higher level of precision whilst momentum plays a part too. This means that sometimes you may have figured out how to solve a puzzle but then be put off the idea when it doesn’t work due to lack of precision.
With no real story to speak of, except for an array of great quotes to take in, The Bridge relies heavily upon the brilliance of its artwork, ideas and problem solving. Sure it looks pretty daunting at first but there are very few moments in gaming that compare with solving a seeming impossible puzzle – you feel like a bloody genius. My only criticism is the lack of explanation for how parts of the game work and how darn tricky it can be, forcing most gamers to get googling for a helping hand. I did it, not very often though as it’s far too emotionally rewarding to do it on your own.
If you’ve played it already then this won’t appeal much to you because the increased gamerscore amount is the only real difference on the Xbox One. Anyone who hasn’t yet experienced The Bridge, just do it, it’s so out there with its concept and designs that it needs to be appreciated for its greatness.