As I write this in the Spring of 2020, the sun shining through my window, it occurs to me that Poly Bridge 2 is an excellent game to be playing right now. Life has been hectic lately, and Poly Bridge 2’s audiovisuals consist of relaxing acoustic guitar music and cheerful polygonal graphics. Everything about the game’s aesthetic invites you to calm yourself and enjoy a soothing, easygoing experience.
Not to mention, there’s an innate, subtle satisfaction to watching a car successfully traverse a ravine on a bridge that you built. It’s an easy game to submerge your thoughts into for a couple hours and take a break from the real world. That is, until you hear a telltale splintering sound and the entire structure collapses, sending the vehicle and its driver careening to a watery grave because you can’t figure out how the hell springs work.
- What is Poly Bridge 2? It’s a physics-based engineering puzzler. Build bridges and send cars through checkpoints, jumps, boat crossings, and all manner of hazards with your structural knowhow.
- Developer: Dry Cactus
- Multiplayer: Leaderboards
- Release Date: May 28, 2020
- Price: $14.99
- Reviewed On: PC
Bridge the Gap
One of the most praiseworthy things you can say about Poly Bridge 2 is that it successfully conveys the fun of working out an engineering problem (at least given a relatively straightforward, consistent framework). For those of us who have no interest in the field professionally, it’s easy to look at it as dry and mechanical. And while Poly Bridge 2 is certainly mechanical, it’s rarely dry — especially if I’m building the damn bridge. Bridges will collapse under cars, trucks, the motions of their mechanical components, even under their own weight. Rendered in this charming, colorful aesthetic, these collapses are often just as hilarious as they are disappointing.
There’s also a creative aesthetic joy to be had for the player. Building an awkward, janky, stilted bridge that creaks and wobbles and barely manages to support the cars crossing is fine to start. But it left me a little cold after awhile. So what did I do? I started aiming for more standardized designs, and eventually, I was looking proudly on nicely symmetrical bridges. My overall satisfaction was only enhanced by the knowledge that the project had started with a rash of catastrophic structural failures.
Another fun mechanic is the budget system. It makes Poly Bridge 2 a layered experience in terms of its challenge and enjoyability. Once you’ve mastered the basics, the budget gives you an incentive to keep optimizing your design, comparing your solutions to puzzles to those concocted by other players. Between the variety of the puzzle design — you’ll work with drawbridges, springs, support cables, and the environment itself — and the pleasure of good old-fashioned American corner-cutting, Poly Bridge 2 manages to be absorbing and entertaining for hours on end.
A Bridge Too Far
When playing Poly Bridge 2, the problems start when the tutorials begin to slow down but new mechanics keep coming. Some concepts are explained well, given a tutorial all to themselves, while the workings of others are mysteriously vague. Watching a bridge crumble because you failed to account for a factor you’ve been taught about is one thing. Continually struggling to use one of your components because the principles of its use haven’t been explained is quite another. This turns the morbid glee of watching vehicles plummet into the river into a sense of helpless frustration.
There are also little imperfections with the audiovisuals. Boats look strange when they exit the scene, phasing out piece by piece. The idea of having various camera angles is a cool concept, but your options are relatively limited in terms of perspective, and it would be cool to have a little more control. And the soundtrack, while relaxing and enjoyable, tends to become a little bit repetitive over time.
Another little piece of frustration is when you’ve worked out a solution to a puzzle, and you’re just on the cusp of solving it under the budget. This can result in countless micro-adjustments continually turning out the same result. Trying out different ideas, experimenting, looking at other players’ solutions for inspiration — these are the fun part of optimizing your budget. But trying to shift individual struts for length to shave off a few dollars swiftly becomes tedious.
That can be the double-edged sword of min-maxing mechanics: there’s a fine line between an absorbing bout of number-crunching and a tiresome process of microscopic tweaks.
Zoom Out: Verdict
Puzzle Design - 8/10
Engineering Mechanics - 8/10
Aesthetics - 7/10
Interface and Tutorialization - 7/10
Poly Bridge 2 is relaxing, absorbing, and often hysterical with its polygonal vehicular carnage. While there can be some frustration and tedium when it comes to poorly-explained concepts or an endless procession of tiny adjustments, the game usually manages to charm and entertain. And even considering those frustrations, they can contribute to the overall feeling of satisfaction you get watching an ambulance not snap your bridge in two and plummet into the water with its wreckage.
- Puzzle design
- Charming audiovisuals
- Great concept and solid execution
- Tedium with small adjustments
- Some mechanics poorly explained
- Some repetition with the soundtrack