Ty Taylor’s genius monochromatic puzzle game gets a next generation makeover on the Xbox One
When you think of indie games that ushered out the golden age of the Xbox Live Arcade in 2013 prior to the launch of Microsoft’s Xbox One, titles that instantly come to mind are those such as Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, State of Decay, BattleBlock Theater, CastleStorm and Charlie Murder. One that is often overlooked is The Bridge; a black and white 2D physics-based puzzler from the genius mind of Ty Taylor. I purchased The Bridge last generation but regrettably never got round to playing it. After completing it on Xbox One I’m wondering why the hell I didn’t play it two years ago.
The Bridge begins with our protagonist, a dapper suited fellow lying against the base of an apple tree snoring away. You’re signalled to use the left and right triggers to tilt the screen until ripe apples fall from its branches. Eventually one drops onto the protagonist’s head, waking him from his slumber. Although the opening of The Bridge is reflective of Newton’s discovery of gravity, your expectations and understanding of the physicist’s laws of motion are completely subverted in this game. The Bridge’s puzzles are physics-based but with the ability to rotate and change gravity at your will, things soon become more challenging.
After the suited man awakes, you use the right joystick in order to get him to walk across a field. His walk is accompanied by onscreen text representing his inner monologues and serving as the game’s narration. It’s almost poetic and complements the abstract story perfectly. Although the story is not the most memorable part of The Bridge; that particular honour belongs to its puzzles and art direction; the closing sequence is delightful and its overall meaning is down to individual interpretation.
Once our protagonist has walked across the field, he arrives at his home; an ordinary detached house on the outside but a gateway to other dimensions on the inside. The main story takes place over four chapters containing six levels each and once these have been completed you then have the chance to play them again in an even harder ‘Mirrored’ mode, hence a total of 48 levels. Each level takes place on a single screen and resembles an oeuvre of M.C. Escher; the artist’s work unsurprisingly being the inspiration for The Bridge’s art direction and level design. So typical of a M.C. Escher painting each labyrinthine level contains various optical illusions and understanding the different networks of interconnected paths is a challenge in itself.
The aim of each level is to reach a door that will unlock the subsequent level. It may seem simple at first but when you consider all of the elements that you need to work with and those that are working against you such as boulders that crush your protagonist immediately and keys needed to unlock the door, it becomes much more of a trial. The gravity-rotation is introduced and established in the first chapter, helping you to understand The Bridge’s most fundamental mechanic. Also, you are introduced to the ability to rewind time in order to correct your mistakes without having to reset each puzzle, hence eradicating any chance of frustration. In subsequent chapters new mechanics are introduced such as vortices that will swallow anything in their vicinity; buttons that will invert the level and your protagonist; and a veil (that oddly looks like a shower curtain and feels out of place) that allows you to manipulate the weight and gravity of other objects. With new elements and mechanics being thrown your way, with some levels including a selection of these, the puzzles in The Bridge never stagnate nor become reiterative.
The Bridge is a challenging game that will require logic, dexterity and, perhaps most importantly, patience. Its puzzles, whilst also being works of art, are extremely mathematical. Fortunately, The Bridge has a gradual learning curve at the beginning but then the difficulty ramps up significantly towards its latter stages (I won’t even mention the crushingly hard Mirrored levels). There’s no disputing that when you figure out the solution to a puzzle sans-walkthrough you will feel like a genius. Not as much of a genius as Ty Taylor who was able to put these mind-boggling puzzles together; an incomprehensible feat that makes me feel like a vacuous, Neanderthal in comparison; but a genius nonetheless. Admittedly, I required the assistance of a walkthrough in the last few levels of the fourth chapter but this didn’t detract from my overall experience since I was still able to appreciate the spectacular level design.
Despite having a monochromatic colour palette, the art direction in The Bridge is impressively attractive. Its hand-drawn lithographic-like illustrations are redolent of those in Jonathan Blow’s Braid and are extremely eye-catching. Mario Castañeda, the game’s artist, has done a superb job in creating such striking visuals in a grayscale world and The Bridge’s visual presentation effortlessly manages to stand out from that in any other puzzle games of its ilk. The soundtrack has a hypnotic and enigmatic quality but isn’t very extensive so it may become slightly grating when you’re stuck on a particular puzzle for some time, which is a highly likely possibility.
It’s evident that The Bridge takes inspiration from other indie darlings; with its hand-drawn aesthetic and time-reversal mechanic similar to that of Braid and its black and white presentation and storytelling method comparable to that of The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom; but The Bridge still manages to stand on its own two feet. The Bridge exudes originality and intellectual stimulation and is deserving of the many accolades it has received since its original release. Its M.C. Escher-inspired art and level design are just some of the reasons it should go down in the indie hall of fame (as well as an art gallery), not to mention the genius of its puzzles. The Bridge is one of those games that you have to just sit back and admire and hopefully more people will get to experience its brilliance now it has come to Xbox One.
Many thanks to Ty Taylor for providing XBLGamerhub with a copy of The Bridge for review