It’s entirely possible that you may have played this game before… back in 2013. Originally released on Steam two years ago, and then later ported to Xbox 360 in the same year, The Bridge is a puzzle-platformer with a bleak look, virtually absent narrative, and a somewhat addictive quality.
To set the scene, imagine if M.C. Escher made a video game and then stuck a creepy Majora’s Mask style boulder in half of the levels and then wandered off giggling, leaving you to figure out what the crap is going on.
I know you are intrigued by this description. Please, let us continue.
You’re dropped into the game’s opening scene as the main character (who is nameless) snoozes under an apple tree. There are no instructions, no tutorial hints to get you going. You must figure out what to do to wake up the character and head into the world of The Bridge. (Don’t be scared off by this—it’s not difficult.) From the get-go, it’s clear that your main enemy here is going to be gravity… strange as that may sound.
Once you enter the levels, or puzzles, the goal is quite simple: Make it to the exit. How you accomplish that is the problem that needs solving. The controls are simple as well: use the shoulder buttons on the GamePad (or tilt it) to rotate the world, and use the analog stick to move the character. You’ll also have the added benefit of a rewind button, should you walk your character into the abyss or otherwise get him killed.
Admittedly, the early puzzles seemed too easy, but they were really designed to teach how to play and how to navigate the strangeness of the structures. The difficulty increases as you progress, and eventually you find yourself balancing the need to obtain keys, avoid creepy grinning boulders, use or avoid vortexes, and manage inversions of black or white.
The inversion aspect definitely adds a complex layer. As certain enemies, objectives, or even obstacles need to be tackled as black or white, you’re forced to figure out how to invert yourself to the correct color to achieve your goal. If you reach the exit and you’re the wrong color to match the door, you’re out of luck and need to continue figuring out the level, for example.
But with all that said, it’s also worth adding the caveat that The Bridge really isn’t all that difficult, once you get down to the core. Often the solutions—which may have otherwise stumped you for twenty minutes—are deceptively simple. Clever players may find little challenge, and patient players may find themselves wishing for harder puzzles to solve. Because there are no time limits, you can take as much time as you like to solve a puzzle, and the rewind button ensures that you can back up for even the tiniest missteps.
All of this results in a highly atmospheric game that’s more of an artistic experience than a hardcore puzzle solving game, but that’s not a bad thing. The overall tone of the game is certainly bleak, but there’s a certain satisfaction and wonder that comes from meandering through the unsettling landscape. The score for the game also fits perfectly without taking anything away from the mood or tone.
With all of that said, the game itself is notably short. Your progress through each level, depending on your skill level and cleverness, could take anywhere from under a minute to half an hour, and (while I don’t want to give anything away) there aren’t a whole lot of levels to speak of once it’s all said and done. At the end, you will however have the chance to go back and complete mirror versions of them all for a different ending, but don’t expect anything close to a story explanation.
As previously mentioned, there’s essentially no narrative in the game, only snippets of phrases and dialogue here and there. If you’re playing for story, you’ve come to the wrong game, because The Bridge is more about your gameplay experience than anything else.
In the end, The Bridge is an odd little gem that’s back for another go-round. It’s new to Wii U, but a few years old. It won considerable acclaim on initial release, and it’s not hard to see why. The game shifts from simple to complex seamlessly, and the atmospheric setting of both the art style and music fit well together to make this a game that requires you to sit down, take a deep breath, and experience in a sort of meditative way.
What the game could really benefit from is additional length or different play modes. Yes, a timed mode would take away from the overall feel of the game, but it would add another experience for players who want more bang for their buck—and it’s a rather high price point, all things considered.
Ultimately, it does what it does very well, and it’s a solid addition to the eShop indie catalogue.