Let me be honest here for a minute – engineering and science have never been firmly within my wheelhouse. Oh, sure, I have dabbled in both, experiencing interesting highs and catastrophic lows. It has never come easily to me, however. Spatial interaction escapes me more often than I’d like, and sometimes the vastness of a problem leaves me speechless. Thus, it was with some trepidation that I began my adventure as a freshman foreman, constructing pit-spanning pathways in Poly Bridge.
Right off the bat, Poly Bridge does a fair job of educating budding bridge building engineers in the methods of causeway construction. Those familiar with Elefunk will be ahead of the game here. Players receive training on anchor points, building roadways, and supporting said roadways with wood or metal architecture, either by propping the roads up or suspending them from ropes and cables below. Once you have an idea of how to construct sound structures, the rest of the game unfolds. The intelligence that developer Dry Cactus applied to the building process is clearly evident; the inclusion of graphing lines to assist with anchoring your construct is just one brilliant way this is displayed.
Following your crash course, you will be given escalating projects to which you will apply your craft. Each level provides changing requirements, including differing types of gaps and anchor points, assorted types of traffic, build budgets, and potentially even restrictions on what construction methods are available to you. These items come together in each level to offer unique experiences that will surely test your engineering skill.
These varied items offer the player a chance to craft a number of different solutions to any particular problem Poly Bridge throws at you, while also creating an environment that allows for incremental successes. For instance, in an early level, the player is charged not only with escorting two motor vehicles across a body of water (in this case, a small car and a station wagon), but also creating a bridge that allows for a boat to travel down the waterway between the two vehicles. If you are anything like me, you likely tackled the problem of allowing the boat through first. Once you have a structure that allows this, you might test run your bridge, and see if it stands up to a bit of weight from your passing cars. If your experience was anything like mine, you would immediately burst with laughter upon seeing your “bridge” drop unceremoniously onto the boat as it passed.
With a few adjustments made, using a simple, quick and intuitive interface, I’m ready for another run (and in less than one minute, no less). This time, the bridge holds up, but the first car reaches the initial incline, which proves to be too steep for the little Geo-esque compact. A few more adjustments, and this problem is also solved. Finally, the station wagon begins it’s trek across the bridge that would not stand, and highlights the latest problem – it is too long for one of the incline angles, and cannot make the journey. A few more minutes of tinkering, and I have allowed all 3 vehicles to pass, albeit on a bridge that is over-budget by about 5k. Welp. Is this what engineering is actually like? My sources and personal (though limited) experience point to yes.
As you can see, those incremental successes are everywhere within Poly Bridge, and they certainly help encourage players to keep building. This great framework is further augmented by controls that allow for quick tests and restarts, copy and paste functions that offer ease of construction, and leaderboards that promote replayability by comparing your efforts to the unwashed engineering masses out there. With so many ways to improve your own designs, Poly Bridge is a game that is easy to play for 10 minutes or 10 hours, and can easily be enjoyed with friends watching and advising, either couch-side or via Twitch. On that note, Poly Bridge offers a suite of Twitch integration tools to help manage that experience, and includes the ability to take design advice from the viewers in a copy/paste sort of metric. This small addition is a damn smart way to handle the beast that is Twitch, and I look forward to seeing similar intelligent designs that continue to innovate like this has. Kudos to Dry Cactus on the idea (explained at length here).
As far as presentation is concerned, Poly Bridge continues to shine here. Charming locales meet characterful vehicles as a backdrop for your engineering endeavors, and the whole look is both simple and slick. The physics at play, combined with the player’s bridge building efforts set a stage where laughter comes easy, edge of your seat experiences still occur (please, station wagon, just make that gap), and triumph is palpable. Combine all this with a gentle acoustic soundtrack that strays close to conventional pop without going over the line, and you have yourself an environment where it is easy to both learn and have fun.
Poly Bridge is a fantastic experience for those who enjoy building and puzzle games alike. The concept and controls begin at approachable, and steadily progress towards the mind-bending end of the spectrum. Dry Cactus have done a spectacular job of packaging a number of different elements here into a title that will likely be a delightful surprise to the majority of gamers out there. Add to that Steam Workshop integration, as well as a sandbox mode, and you have a title that will keep fresh at length, possibly for years to come. So, what are you waiting for? Snag yourself a copy on Steam, and start building bridges (and jumps!) today.