Building Bridges with Poly Bridge
On July 12th, New Zealand-based indie developer Dry Cactus released their first PC game, Poly Bridge. The one-man studio, owned by Patrick Corrieri, had been working on this bridge building sim for two years before the game was ready to put into early release on Steam in 2015.
The game generated a lot of interest, and after a year it was fully released for all to play. Patrick had previously released another bridge building game for iOS called Paper Bridge, and was keen to use the experiences gained from making that game to produce a bigger and better game for mainstream desktop release.
Poly Bridge draws inspiration from other bridge building sims such as Pontifex 2, but has been developed in such a way that it allows players to interact as a community and have options to build their own thing in sandbox mode as well as progressing through the campaign mode.
For the sake of this review, I only played the tutorial and the campaign mode. Even though I enjoy playing puzzle games and building sims, I also have a very slight interest in engineering. I have never played a game in this genre before and wanted to get an idea of the game from a new player perspective.
The aim of the game is to construct bridges, using various materials available to you, which will allow for various vehicles to travel over them, as well as overcoming obstacles such as ships. In the tutorial, you learn the basics of how the bridges in the game should be constructed and also learn how to make basic draw and suspension bridges. From there, the game launches into its campaign mode.
The Poly Bridge campaign mode has over 100 levels of progressively harder scenarios, each one needing a different kind of bridge built or a gap requiring some bridges or jumps to complete. Sometimes what is required of the level is pretty hard to figure out. Although each level starts with a little frame showing how many and what kind of vehicles are needing to use the bridge and what materials you have at your disposal, what you do in the level is pretty much up to you.
For me, this led to a few problems as someone with limited engineering and physics knowledge. Given that the tutorial only gives the basics to some simpler bridge types, you have to think about what needs to be done and consider all the possible structures you could create.
Each level also has a budget which, to gain the best scores, you do need to stay within however it does let you go a bit over budget, but not by much. When I was making some of my constructions, I got to a point where I couldn't go any more over budget. It soon made me change my play style, though. I found myself approaching things from a more structural perspective to try and get the same kind of bridge, but using fewer materials while retaining structural integrity.
Disregarding my problems with completing some of the levels, the game itself is visually pleasing and clean. Edging towards geometric design, the main background does not detract from focusing on the bridge you are making. The image shown above is the main construction screen. As you can see, everything other than your construction and the available materials at the bottom of the screen is in greyscale, making the rest stand out. The construction screen features a grid setting which makes a different when you are faced with a problem that requires things to be equally distanced or when having to make things certain heights.
This game has so many plus points but there are a couple of things lacking that I feel could be useful in such a game. At the moment, it seems very geared towards people who already know a lot of bridge building and structural engineering but, to be more accessible to others who might want to learn about this genre of game and try a new game, maybe some tips or help function could be of use.
As previously stated, the tutorial is very brief indeed and there is quite a sharp increase in difficulty even within the first "zone" of levels. I even found the need to consult the Poly Bridge Steam page for some help. Also, not all of the functions on the bottom of the construction view were explained in the tutorial so I have no idea how they would work other than searching through the manual to find out what they do.
Overall, Poly Bridge is a good game. It isn't just a game to pick up and put down -- you need to give careful consideration to each level making sure your structures hold the weight they need to, avoid obstacles when needed and keep within budget. It can be a bit harder for those without engineering knowledge, but if you are willing to put the time in to learn then you can happily progress through all the levels.
Poly Bridge is out now to buy on Steam and is available for Windows, OS X, and Linux systems.