Breaking My Backlog #3 – The Bridge

Breaking My Backlog is a semi-regular features on in which I attempt to complete my entire backlog before buying any new games. You can read more about the quest and see my backlog here.

Spoiler Warning: The following post contains major spoilers for The Bridge. Seriously. I basically spoil what little story there is in this game.

The Bridge is a game about slowly descending into madness, which is apropos as playing the game will cause you to descend into madness. It’s a puzzle game, and a good one at that. But it’s a puzzle game that requires you to focus, and with each level, it requires more and more focus, until you end up wanting to tear your hair out. If you’re lucky enough to have hair, of course.

I’m not.

As a puzzle game, The Bridge is a simple enough affair. You control a main character that is alluded to be M.C. Escher, acclaimed artist of bizarre perspectives, who must traverse 48 levels, each one providing a puzzle that you must solve in order to progress. You help the main character beat each level by rotating the level on a 2-dimensional plan to create new paths and change the gravity. The levels are all very creative, and each new section debuts new challenges to overcome in order to progress the story. After each main section, of which there are 8 of the them, you’re given a further glimpse into the story, which tells of a friendship between an artist and a scientist, and the aftermath of that friendship when the scientist dies, leaving the artist to his own madness. As the artist grows more and more mad with each section, the levels too become more and more complex, frustrating, and dangerous.

There’s an interesting parallelism that the game achieves, which I’m not entirely sure is intentional. As the game itself becomes more and more demanding, the more attention it requires of the player in order to succeed. While I don’t actually believe the game is some sort of succubus, it’s hard to deny that as I played the game one Saturday morning, I found myself becoming more and more obsessed with beating each puzzle. Rather than attribute this to some supernatural force, though, I instead attribute it to good puzzle design. 

There are two elements of puzzle design within the game that makes it difficult to complete, both of which require to you to buckle down and focus harder as the puzzles become more complex. The first is in the design of the levels themselves, which are all based on Escher artwork. Anyone who has seen Escher’s artwork can tell you that it requires a bit of concentration to even look at it. With bizarre perspectives and infinite hallways, Escher’s work is difficult to follow, or even comprehend. Now, move a little figure from one point to another while you’re manipulating time, space, and physics. You do start to get used to it as each puzzle passes, but a lot of the levels just don’t make physical sense, which is a major appeal of the game, I’d say.

The second design element, which feels a little more unintentional, is the precision required to complete the puzzles. During some of the puzzles, I found myself discovering the solution early on, but unable to figure out how to put the solution to practice, because my rotation or timing was off just a sliver. In one puzzle, holding the rotation off by a degree when starting the solution led to the puzzle elements locking themselves within the level, off by just enough that I couldn’t achieve the solution, but no way to reset them other than restarting the level completely. This, as I’m sure it seems, led to a much more frustrating experience.

Both of these design elements work together to create a series of puzzles and solutions that ultimately require you, as the player, to invest a bit of yourself in order to be successful. Not just time, but attention, focus, and brainpower. It’s not a game for the casual puzzle player. That said, I guess this is probably fitting for a game about madness and obsession, and the lengths we as humans will to go to achieve that which we desire.

Overall, there’s not much here to talk about, other than what I’ve already talked about. I liked the game. I liked it a lot. The puzzles were inventive and well-designed, and despite a few frustrating hangups, I enjoyed investing the time and energy into solving all of them. I’m not sure there’s a better praise I can give a puzzle game.

Backlog Update:

And with that, we’re three down and inching our way closer to victory.

Total Backlog: 210 209

(All images obtained from the official website for The Bridge)

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