A truly frustrating experience on the Switch.
Sometime last year gifs started circulating the internet of a bridge building simulator with weird physics that yielded tons of fun and interesting moments. This quickly peaked my interest, but for whatever reason I never actually got around to checking it out. So when I learned Poly Bridge was Switch bound I was both excited and eager to finally get my hands on it. Unfortunately what I found was a port that’s a complete disaster of what would otherwise be a charming puzzle game.
Poly Bridge is a physics based puzzle game where the goal is to construct a bridge strong enough to transport a vehicle from one side to the other without breaking. The idea seems simple, but the beauty comes by way of your imagination and the open ended solutions. The physics encourage creativity with each different build and being able to adjust the design on the fly is satisfying. Over the course of more than 100 campaign puzzles, it introduces a number of different materials and situations that’ll dictate how to approach each design. Early on you’ll only have to deal with laying down road and building wood supports to ensure a single vehicle survives to the other side, all while staying under budget. But as you progress deeper into the campaign the puzzles become more complex, introducing new vehicles and materials such as the hydraulic beam. These are used to make draw bridges, allowing boats to bypass the bridge without crumbling it into depths below. I appreciate the new elements as they help keep things fresh, but at times the explanations of new mechanics are a little lackluster. There’s also a sandbox mode that allows the player to jump into a near limitless playground where the parameters can be set to create fun and unique stages.
While I enjoy the concept, there are a slew of problems plaguing Poly Bridge. The most glaring being the design choice in control schemes. When docked the only way to play is pointer controls via a single Joy-Con. By placing the left Joy-Con on a flat surface then pointing at the screen to calibrate, it’ll act similar to a Wiimote. However the execution is downright bad, requiring constant recalibration and then when it’s pointing in the correct area, it’s near impossible to have the level of precision needed to solve puzzles. Something as trivial as building a straight line of road becomes a chore. I want to struggle to find the solution to a puzzle; I don’t want to struggle to build it once I’ve figured it out. When playing in handheld it changes over to full touch controls, which admittedly play much better, but still lack the level of control you’d hope for. It often can still be a pain to do simple tasks, but at least the game’s playable. Well, that is until the draw bridge puzzles come into play.
Throughout the game, many of the puzzles focus on draw bridges and hydraulics. In order to make a functioning draw bridge it requires split joints, which are made by simply double tapping two joints that overlap one another. After many attempts to figure this out and re-watching the tutorial more times than I’d like to admit, it simply doesn’t work. There’s no way to make a split joint in handheld mode, which is required to solve a huge amount of puzzles. There is a work around by playing in docked mode, but frankly the pointer controls are so horrendous that I choose to simply skip them instead. Luckily the game allows skips of any stage without repercussion. It should be noted that developer Dry Cactus is aware of both the control issues and bugs and said a patch will become available fixing these issues, but we don’t have a specific date on its arrival.
Although the controls are a mess, the game runs well on the Switch. Outside of an excessively big level or two later in the game, I didn’t notice any slowdown and even then it was only just a slight hiccup. Visually the game has a charming art direction with an emphasis on polygonal shapes. Each vehicle has a cute design and coupled with very soothing music, I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation. Seeing how nice the game looks alongside a fun gameplay concept really shines a light on how poor of a port this really is.
Poly Bridge takes an interesting gameplay concept and pairs it with a simply charming presentation. With all the building blocks in place, it seems like we’d have a great physics based puzzle game that allows freedom and creativity on our hands. However a rushed port with horrendous controls and a game altering bug turn this into an utterly frustrating experience on the Switch. It’s almost impossible to recommend in its current state, but with promised patches coming, all hope might not be lost. Keep your eyes out for our thoughts on future patches/updates as they release.