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The Bridge / 26th of August 2015

Now, I have to admit that The Bridge is a game that I have had my eye on for quite some time, since long before it was even released on the Xbox 360, where I had hoped that it would continue to fuel my burgeoning desire for more puzzle titles akin to such classics as Braid and Limbo. For some reason though, I never actually bought it, and have only now gotten around to playing it at last, now that it has been re-released on Xbox One, but has it managed to both stimulate my brain cells and appease my vanity with its beautiful, heavily stylised visuals? Yes, it most certainly has.

From a presentation standpoint, The Bridge has a heck of a lot in common with Braid, seeing it start players lazily in the midst of some great, nondescript field, as the character that they control slumbers beneath a laden apple tree. Rising to his feet, players can then choose to wander off in either direction (The Bridge is played out on a 2D plane), though walking left simply enters them into a never ending loop of repeating scenery, perhaps an indication of the physics based, paradoxical shenanigans that are to come. Moving in the correct direction, however, will see players stumble upon the character’s home, wherein there are doors that lead to the game’s four levels, though the last of these will only materialise in the basement after the rest of the puzzles have been completed. This though, does not actually amount to the game’s full challenge, as – somewhat reminiscent of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – there is also an inverted version of the house that throws up another four levels of brain taxing fun. All in all, there are a total of forty-eight, gravity defying puzzles, packed with vortexes, alternate worlds/realities and death dealing balls of…well, death. Nothing in The Bridge is quite what it seems, and the game benefits immensely from it.

In game, The Bridge effectively does away with the platform orientated gameplay of the games that I mentioned earlier for a more puzzle focused style. Levels are still navigated by moving the character around the area with the analogue stick, whilst the two triggers are used to rotate the world around on its axis. The look of each level is highly stylised, with the developer, The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild, clearly deriving their primary inspirations from Perceptual Psychology and the impossible drawings of M.C. Escher, where objects mesh together to form seemingly straightforward images by using such techniques as linear perspective, shading and size cues. Quite clearly, there is very little in the realm of videogames that can claim to sport a similar visual style to The Bridge, yet the aesthetics are not simply there to look pretty, they form the fundamental premise of the puzzles themselves. From this, the developer tasks the player with just one simple undertaking, navigate the topsy-turvy environment and leave it via the solitary door in each puzzle, sometimes it really is as simple as that, but most of the time, the door is locked, requiring the player to collect between one and four keys in order to proceed.

The first half of the game keeps the problem solving on a pretty steady level from the first puzzle onwards, but from the start of chapter three, The Bridge slips in a couple of new mechanics, the first being the ability to invert the entire level, turning grey to white and the world, quite literally, on its head. They even introduce a device that allows the player to rotate the world without affecting their own position within it too, and perhaps best off all, they managed to do this, and keep the player fully aware of their new abilities without the need for tutorials to hamper the pacing and perfectly judged difficulty curve.

Of course, mistakes will happen (more often than not in my case) and, as one may already suspect, some of these puzzles are quite brutally difficult, though all the more satisfying to conquer. So, to ease the possibility of the game becoming overly difficult, the team have also catered for us mere mortals by allowing for the rewinding of time to ensure that errors can be quickly erased with just the touch of a button. And needless to say, it comes in very handy indeed.

It is perhaps something of an understatement to say that The Bridge is undoubtedly one of the finest puzzle games that you are ever likely to stumble across, with its beautiful aesthetics and fiendish puzzles, combined with a well-judged difficulty level, The Bridge has been polished to the Nth degree, placing it in the highest pantheons of the genre aside the likes of its biggest influence, Braid. Now, by all accounts there have been no changes made to the game in its transition from last to current gen consoles, but if like me, you foolishly passed it over first time around, be sure to take advantage of this opportunity and experience one of the finest puzzlers you’re ever likely to see.

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