Poly Bridge plays much like the classic The Incredible Machine. The games share a similar genre, with the mindset that you’re building contraptions (bridges in this case) in an effort to solve a puzzle. The similarity, at least for me, tends to stop there, where in The Incredible Machine most objectives were ignored in favor of seeing how high I could propel a cat into the air, versus in Poly Bridge where I’m all about the bridge design and feeling like an accomplished failure.
And that’s what Poly Bridge is at its heart. It’s not a bridge building simulator. It’s not a game about testing the laws of physics realistically. No, this at its heart is an accomplished failure simulator. It doesn’t matter how quickly you pick up the building mechanics, or how naturally talented you are at bridge design; if you play Poly Bridge you will in time find a challenge that will absolutely break you.
For hours you’ll sit playing, trying to figure out how to get a school bus across a wide river with asymmetrical cliffs. Even when you’re not playing, you’ll sit around wondering what it will take to complete this mind-breaking challenge. After two days of avoiding the game you’ll sit back down and in one attempt lasting 45 seconds, you’ll get the school bus to its destination; all accomplished under-budget and with out overstressing your bridge supports. Then, once the joy has worn off, your mind will dwell on the failures you perpetuated over the days prior to this victory.
You’ll realize you are a failure. An accomplished failure.
You’ll then play the next half dozen levels and experience those highs and lows time and again. It’ll be awesome, trust me.
From my perspective, that is Poly Bridge in a nutshell.
The game mixes pleasant music — one track which sounds so similar to Elton John’s “Your Song” that I’ve now had it stuck in my head for near a month — with simple graphics, to create a sense of calm that runs diametrically opposite to the game’s absolute disdain for my feelings of self-worth. Perhaps I sound angry, but I’m not. Maybe it’s a sense of masochism, but I enjoy a game that proves how little I know about basic physics or bridge construction. Honestly, I now wish I lived in a city populated by more bridges, because I’m truly interested in analyzing how they function.My only real gripe with Poly Bridge is that the sometimes unforgiving nature keeps stopping my progress so drastically. After two weeks of attempts, I simply can’t continue on with the campaign as I can’t figure out what it wants of me in one particular level. As such, my progress is halted, leaving me feeling like a run-of-the-mill failure, versus the formerly accomplished one I once was. While this makes sense in most puzzle games, I can’t help but feel frustrated that I’m gated from seeing the rest of the campaign due to one puzzle. (Yes, I know this is a basic game mechanics of the last 30 years, but it’s still rage-inducing.)
Poly Bridge is well worth playing as it enters early access officially on June 30th on Steam. At the time of this review the Sandbox mode wasn’t yet implemented, but one would expect it to offer thrills more in line with The Incredible Machine, except with cars and player’s fragile emotional states being launched into the air.
Gallery of Success and Failure
Poly Bridge relies heavily on the idea of positive punishment. You're beaten down time and again as you move through the levels, but the uplifting music and cartoony visuals keep you coming back for more bridge-building fun. This is definitely a title that should appeal to anyone that enjoys building structures; even more-so if they're filled with too much self worth and belief in their own abilities.