As I watch the paddle steamer tear the inadequately-raised bridge partitions from their hydraulic moorings, followed by traffic plunging into the river far below, I smile and exclaim how very charming this thing is. Friends, Poly Bridge. If the names 'Bridge Builder' or 'Pontifex' means anything, you'll be pleased to know that there's a fine and fresh new physics-based canyon crosser in the mix.
Featuring a faithful 2D construction view mode, with a delightful Kentucky Route Zero-meets-Besiege 3D simulation after committing yourself to engineering heaven or hell, Poly Bridge is a classic example of easy-to-play, hard-to-master gameplay. As players progress through a variety of regional locales, each with a set amount of construction puzzles to master, there's a gentle difficulty curve that doles out upwards brain-teasers by throttling the number of tools at your disposal. The ever-present road pieces form vehicular surfaces, supported by a mixed number of wood struts, steel pylons, cabling and hydraulics for articulated sections. Each material has a distance limit, so knowing how to wield the position of connector nodes is crucial to success. Bolstering supports with cross-beams, countering stress-points with balanced weight distribution, knowing how much your ugly ducking of a construction can withstand with each passing vehicle inadvertently seeking out the weakest links in the creation.
Poly Bridge packs in an immediate sixty-plus levels to crack, with the addition of user-created levels and the ability to upload .gifs of the wins and losses to various social media platforms. Leave questions of value propositions at the door; there's no shortage of ravines to traverse for your doubloons. While Poly Bridge might not offer as many construction tchotchkes as something like Besiege, there's creativity to be had under the comparative austerity. Designing elaborate cantilevers and asymmetric spans, I never found myself seemingly locked into engineering pedantry by railroading players into 'the right way' to cross a gorge. If it works, it works. That can come from any design methodology, which cements Poly Builder as a the next Pontifex in my eyes.
There's a reason these games, and this particular iteration, are so enjoyable. The melding of anticipatory excitement with either the subsequent satisfaction of success, or the vicarious thrill of catastrophic destruction. As you can tell by screenshots, Poly Bridge is no platform for visual or physics realism, but it manages to convey a convincing level of accuracy in its whimsy. In much the same way cult classic World of Goo managed to effect a parse-at-a-glance engineering workshop that made absolute sense despite the toolbox being sentient gelatinous orbs, Poly Bridge is built from the same user-friendly material. It's a rugged, undeniably charming puzzler where watching a bus plunge in a river at the hands of a reckless engineer is as entertaining as seeing commuters safely across the canyon.
Build a bridge. Try to get over it. Worth it.
Thanks to Evolve PR for supplying preview/review code. Poly Bridge releases June 30th.