After selling 13 million units world wide, you didn’t really think the Gears of War franchise was over right? While the fine folks at EPIC Games are have shifted focus to other endeavors (see Fort Night), they’ve handed over their precious (and lucrative) franchise to their friends at People Can Fly, the sadists behind last year’s Bulletstorm. With the world of Sera saved and all that, where does the Gears franchise head next? Simple, THE PAST!
We are all familiar with MC Escher’s works of perceptual illusion and physical impossibilities. Quite brilliant really, stare into one of these works long enough and your eye gets lost in the detail as your mind struggles to make sense of the depth and contrast. It’s a world onto it’s own, ripe for puzzling — Ty Taylor and Mario Castaneda have done just that in the indie-darling, The Bridge.
On the surface it looks so simple, but the devil is in the detail, and I think that’s what makes The Bridge an instant classic. One in which grey-scale MC Escher-esque landscapes and mind-bending puzzles come to life. Like most great puzzle games the goal is deceptively simple: navigate your avatar (who looks suspiciously like Escher, himself) to the door and proceed to the next level. Of course, the door is sometimes on the wall… or is that the ceiling… oh, wait, that’s the floor again. The sketchbook-art style of Castaneda is really quite inspired, as you are drawn (pun intended) into The Bridge’s beautifully designed levels.
The game utilizes a minimalistic control scheme – WASD to move your avatar, and the Arrow keys to rotate the game environment. Yeah, that’s right… I said rotate the game environment, have fun trying to do both at the same time while processing gravitational physics. As in many puzzle games, you learn to crawl before you walk, walk before you run. Each level presents a unique challenge, the solution to which becomes part of your mental arsenal to use in future levels.
Soon enough, however, you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of mobius strip trying to figure out where it all went wrong. Fear not, for the developers want the game to be accessible, fun, and encourage experimentation — the game has a “rewind” function, a la Braid, however, unlike Braid, it is not a part of the game-play from what I’ve experienced, rather, it is available so that you can explore the game freely.
I like to fancy myself the resident puzzler at Nerd Appropriate; you know, decent mental-rotation and spatial-orientation cognitive abilities, charming good-looks, that sort of thing… so believe me when I tell you this game will challenge you. There are times in which I simply had to take a step back and approach a puzzle at a later time. At one point my mind became so lost in the infinite looping of one stage, I found myself endlessly rotating the environment, starting into the washing machine of my mind. I got a little nauseous — I don’t mean this in a negative way, that’s high praise. This is the point at which I realized I really enjoy this game.
So I write this as I am stuck at a particular puzzle a bit later in the game, knowing full-well that a more challenging mode of the game is unlocked once the main story is complete. I also look forward to the a-HA moment, when I finally solve it.
The Bridge is a must-play, for the presentation as much as the game-play itself. What started as a college project has turned into something quite wonderful, having garnered praise from various indie-challenges, developer showcases, and even the PAX 10. Now, you can enjoy the game on Steam, with support for Steam Cloud, Big Picture, and Full Controller support.
Good luck, and Happy Gaming.