Friday, 27 April 2012

Completed: Bridge It

Main Menu screenshot

I don't normally venture into full blown simulator territory, they tend to involve realistic controls, physics and a tendency to not actually contain interesting explosions. Somewhere along the way though I was exposed to a title called Pontifex. I think it was at SGL , my computer was mostly otherwise occupied with progress bars and someone convinced me to give this game a shot. As it turns out, I found that building bridges is an entertaining puzzle. It is even entertaining to get what looks like a reasonable bridge and find that it catastrophically fails when someone so much as sneezes near it.

A failed bridgeI have never quite managed to actually go out and buy these titles, they just don't quite convince me to deal with whatever payment method Chronic Logic requires and to actually part with $20. I obtained Bridge It part of the Indie Face Kick bundle where it was added when there was about 24 hours left.

I added Bridge It to the list on Wednesday and finished on Saturday evening. I did reasonably well through to the complex levels though I admittedly supplemented my designs with some from the Internet. Unfortunately in complex my abilities collapsed, along with my bridges. I just couldn't manage to build a bridge to span the distance that wouldn't break under its own weight.

This is where I asked my girlfriend for help. She built with arches, where I had mostly focused on the power of the triangle, arches quickly demonstrated their superiority and she overtook the majority of the construction process.

We spent a good 5 or 6 hours completing the last half of the complex levels together, though she gave up in disgust at the final complex level. She was doubly annoyed that there were no elegant solutions online when she went looking, I ended up using one of the solutions she found on YouTube so I could set the game down.

A folding bridgeBridge It is apparently the most casual of Chronic Logic's bridge building simulators. It has by far the prettiest engine, but it lacks a level editor and the ability to adjust the Z axis, you are stuck with only the 24 levels it comes with (27 if you include the tutorial levels), though you can buy an additional set of levels for $5.

The game has several restrictions on any given level, there are specific anchor points for your bridge, so a harder level may only have 2 anchor points on either edge, or in the case of the final complex level, only one anchor point. Anchor points are the only way to join your bridge with the ground, otherwise you are stuck building a few metres above it, resulting in a lot of destruction when you hit the simulate button and it suddenly has to deal with gravity.

The building interface
The building interface
The other restrictions are materials and budget. The game will restrict your total budget for a level with different materials costing different amounts based how long they are and whether or not they also have crossbars and deck. A level will also specify what materials can be used and the maximum amount of these materials, so you may be able to use all the iron you want, but only 4 cables, or 10 hydraulic pieces.

The way the game handles exceeding both the overall budget and the materials budget is rather inelegant and to be honest a bit annoying. If a piece you are trying to place would take you over budget you cannot place it. This applies even when you are copying and pasting large sections of bridge. It would be great if you could exceed the budget, but it would not actually let you pass the level until you brought your bridge back in the black. It would make the construction process a lot nice. Also if you place a piece, you cannot make minor adjustments to it, you can only remove it. Being able to move joints rather than remove and replace them would also make the interface feel a lot more smooth.

Simulation with stress
The simulation lets you see the stress along your bridge.
Hydraulics are my favourite component, typically they only appear on levels where you need to create a drawbridge to let boats through. I actually grew up near an instance of this kind of bridge, and I especially liked trying to make stupidly unrealistic versions, I never quite managed to make a bridge that sank though. At least not one that would then rise back up after the boats has passed through.

The game is not without some odd bugs, we specifically had some levels where perfectly viable solutions would not work because for some bizarre reason the truck would mysteriously phase through the deck of the bridge and fall down. The solution I used was a second layer of deck beneath to nudge the truck back on track, my girlfriend felt that this was cheating and tried to slightly alter solutions so that it didn't happen. I feel that ridiculous solutions are perfectly acceptable when dealing with ridiculous problems.

I had a great time with this game and am quite tempted to fork up the $20 to get the Bridge Construction Set, it is not quite as pretty, but it is more complicated and it has a level editor, it would be nice to try to build free of restrictions. Chronic Logic do have demos which are probably good to try before you actually grab the game.

The magic phasing ghost truck in action
I present, the magic ghost truck
Games list at time of post: 391 unfinished titles
Changes since previous post: None                                  

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