I’ve written before that, when it comes to video games, I tend to enjoy titles that have a little bit of artistic value and some intellectual challenges (you can begin writing your “pretentious hipster” rants in the comments section below). It was out of that same spirit that I decided to download and start playing an indie game called The Bridge, developed by game designer Ty Taylor and artist Mario Castañeda.
The Bridge is both a puzzle game and art game, with as much detail put into the intricacy of its mazes and obstacles as into the classic lines and shadings of every game level. You play as a small gentleman who wanders through each maze, slowly unlocking pieces of a larger story as you progress through each “Chapter” or specific set of puzzles. Using arrow keys, you can tilt or rotate every setting, using a combination of M.C. Escher-style architecture and some manipulation of gravity and momentum to solve each puzzle.
Hands down, this game is a delight to look at. Combined with an ethereal soundtrack by Kevin MacLeod, the game offers a mind-bending experience as you try to navigate architecture based on impossible objects, much like Escher’s Belvedere or the famous Penrose stairs. At the same time, the ethos of this game is very unusual. The grinning balls you have to avoid in some levels (known as “The Menace”) look like something out of a German Expressionist film and reinforce the dream-like, almost nightmarish quality of the game.
In playing this game (much like when I played Dream before that), I soon realized something about myself: I have a very limited amount of patience for actual puzzle solving. My mind seems to be very good at observing certain patterns and piecing items together, but not as good at the kind of strange geometry and physics manipulation that The Bridge has to offer. I got about as far as Chapter 4 before I began seriously contemplating putting the game aside, and even then I only made it that far thanks to the awesome walkthrough videos produced by Christopher Odd on YouTube.
At the same time, there wasn’t much of a plot or a story to follow. Of course, most video games don’t require one, but I felt like there was something deeper going on and I couldn’t reach it. The game has a strong dream-like quality and the player character feels something lurking like a ghost, while passing monuments of what looks like an older version of himself. Much like the puzzles, I grew frustrated with the lack of clarity in the overall plot, though I was kept engaged with the texture and geometry of every illustrated game level.
At the end of the day, however, The Bridge is a nice combination of mind-bending challenges and beautiful hand-drawn geometry. Even as you’re tearing your hair out over how to not lose the final key or avoid getting killed in one hit by a grinning ball, you can’t help but marvel at how beautiful and imaginative it looks.
Bibliography: The Bridge. Developed by Ty Taylor and Mario Castañeda. Designed by Ty Taylor. Illustrated by Mario Castañeda. Published by The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild. Microsoft Windows, Xbox Live Arcade, Steam. Original release date: February 22, 2013.