Out this month is the Mac-compatible version of The Bridge, a one-of-a-kind indie platformer developed by Ty Taylor & Mario Castañeda in 2011. The Bridge is inspired by the whimsical grayscale imagination of mathematically-inspired graphic artist M.C. Escher. Our hero, a middle-aged studious little chap, spends his time idling a world were physics and gravity bend the law and lay of the land (a not-so-subtle nod to the famous physicist, Isaac Newton).
The mission in nearly every level is to collect a key and pass through a door. This can be accomplished as simply as rotating the environment clockwise or counter-clockwise, manipulating weighted objects to activate or disengage vortexes, or flip levels and reevaluate what objects your sage philosopher can interact with. There are 24 levels in all, but–much like gravity itself–things are not exactly what they seem. Completing every level unlocks new challenges, such as mirror mode. In this reflective, mirror-image map that mimics prior levels completed, the flipped environments pose new threats and obstacles, putting all of the skills employed thus far to work to head your serene, thoughtful hero homeward for a total of 48 levels in all (and an alternate ending!).
The soundtrack is eery, reminiscent of fairy tales and the fodder of childlike wonder. You begin each mission being sketched into a landscape comprised of shades of grey, and the noise of pencil lead scribbling away becomes your foley theme song. Sleeping under an apple tree, you must wake up your professor by knocking an apple on his head. Your avatar is a smartly dressed, dapper chap that looks scholarly, sort of Newtonian, bedecked in tweed and a smoking jacket. Use WADS and the directional keys to traverse this hand-sketched realm where gravity and physics are your ally and enemy both. Use these keys navigate your little gentleman towards keys and locked doors, and away from a grinning Loki of a paperweight (whether suspended of free-rolling) and paradoxical vortexes that threaten to paralyze the prof in his tracks.
Your character mozies along through The Bridge‘s levels, obviously about as athletic as his sports coat makes him look. The music is thoughtful and inquisitive, and encourages the pondering that this game’s grayscale artwork seems to beg. Lax, too, is the speed of gameplay. There are no timers, and no penalty for deaths (just that ghostly spector-sketch); this is probably a good thing. If you are clever and have an aptitude for mind-benders, this game will have been dominated in a day’s time. However, if you’re a normal person who doesn’t indulge in constant M.C. Escher style fantasies, you will find this refreshingly simple game puzzling, ingenious, and perhaps equal parts dull and frustrating. (I though this was one of the coolest, most innovative games that I’ve ever played. Having said that, I can see immediately that this game could be potentially boring or tedious. I disagree politely, but that just means that this is not a platformer for everyone.)
The plot as well as the game’s atmosphere remain intentionally mysterious and open to interpretation. Prosaic narrative, heavy-handed and brooding, suggest clues or a general idea of what is, has or will happen in the world of The Bridge. In the end, the story–like the puzzles in the game themselves–are up to the player to solve.