Build yourself a Poly Bridge and…
Poly Bridge works as two different types of games. On one hand, it’s an unassuming and adorable puzzle game filled with pleasant music and a charming aesthetic. The other game I like to call “Tiny-miner-man-on-a-moped death simulator.” No matter how I look at it, Poly Bridge was a fun challenge wrapped in a package that’s far more exciting than the premise lets on.
As I fired up Poly Bridge for the first time, it threw me right into the tutorial. No menu, no options, it tossed me into a scenario and walked me through step-by-step. A lot of other games struggle to realize the disaster of making players wait within the first ten minutes or so, but despite it being a tutorial, the game allowed me to control what I was doing and didn’t stagnate in the process. There were several types of bridges the game walked me through. A standard bridge from point A to point B, double decker bridges, and hydraulic lifts, all with different types of materials to work with. To my surprise, some of the steps it walked me through were failures to show why and how certain support systems don’t work and how to fix them. This is quite strong, and by the time I hit the first level I felt ready to take on anything. Except I wasn’t.
For starters, the tutorial had a grid system with points laid out in an obvious pattern to walk you through. The grid was there, but there were no points preventing you from making whatever you want. I didn’t know what to do with my newfound freedom, so I built a bridge straight across with my interpretation of support and watched my bridge crumble before moped man even took off. Poly Bridge isn’t kidding; triangles are your friend. I dusted myself off and tried again. The bridge held! Until moped man got to one of my weak supports and fell down. The next time I had it and I got a sense of victory like no other.
The other great thing about the game is that there isn’t one solution to any puzzle. Your resources are limited to what they give you on each level, but that varies from moment to moment. Generally, they’ll give you unlimited wood (I’m sure there’s a joke there somewhere), but your pieces of road as well as steel beams and rope are given in set amounts. All of these resources cost money, and you have a budget in each level. This prevents you from building a stupid amount of supports as well as gives you a framework to go back and try different solutions to lower your spending. Sometimes, you’ll need to overspend to try and come up with a solution, I love that the game allows you to do that rather than prevent you from moving forward.
Point is, Poly Bridge is as much about failure as it is success, and no matter which part of the equation you’re on, it feels rewarding. If you fail, it’s funny, if you succeed, you are the greatest architect that ever lived.
Too many puzzle games are limited to simple solutions and hold players back from moving forward. The open-ended solutions that allow players to create is the strongest aspect of Poly Bridge and it makes creation extremely rewarding. The first time I played the game I went in just get an idea of what I was playing, and I ended up sitting for a few hours tinkering with different levels. The next morning, I fired it up and my girlfriend/roommate/dog mom saw me playing and gave it a shot. After work that day I came home and she had been playing without me, too. The game is accessible and addicting to all sorts of players.
Any sense of frustration most puzzle games give is also alleviated by the soundtrack. A plethora of finger-picked guitar tracks with familiar melodies is relaxing the same way the ambient music in Minecraft appeals to me. The visuals are nice, too. Putting together the puzzle lies on a 2D plane, but as you hit start to test your bridge, it switches to a 3D bridge that comes to life with whatever type of vehicle and moments you have to create.
I do have one complaint about Poly Bridge, however, and that comes in the hydraulic levels. The tutorial doesn’t give you a great example of how to use them, and it made every level that required them extremely frustrating. The tutorial sets up how to use a single hydraulic and how to split the joints, but this isn’t very obvious to the lay person (me) and once the actual game started I was given bridges with multiple points to split and couldn’t wrap my brain around it. These specific levels gave a sense of haphazard trial-and-error, and I’m still not entirely comfortable with how to use them. It breaks the immersion a bit, and these were the levels I’d generally walk away from for a bit before I found a solution.
Poly Bridge is my favorite game I’ve played all year. I can’t recommend it enough to those with any sense of creativity. On the bright side, you both get to create, and if you’re not feeling laid back you get to watch plenty of stuff fall apart and get destroyed, too. No matter what you’re feeling, it’s there in this game. I don’t have a deep understanding of physics, nor does most math appeal to me, but the game wraps it up a neat and accessible package that I’ll keep playing as long as there are more levels to conquer.
Final Verdict: 4.5 / 5
Available on: PC (Reviewed); Publisher: Dry Cactus; Developer: Dry Cactus; Players: 1; Released: July 12, 2016