Thank you, Dry Cactus, for sending us a copy of this game to review!
When I was young, I often wandered through the forest along a path. In a couple places the path would dip down low enough so that a stream would cross over it. Although it was simple enough to just jump over the stream, sometimes it would be more fun to build a bridge across the stream, using bark branches and leaves. If I happened to have a toy car with me, then it could drive across the bridge... and sometimes the bridge would (intentionally on accident) break or fall over. It's probably a good thing I never became an engineer when I got older!
Poly Bridge allows the player to recreate the experience of building bridges for your toy cars. In the game, your objective is to build bridges across watery passages, using a variety of building materials. Most of the time, you'll be limited to wood, but you also can use suspension cables, metal girders and hydraulics for some of the challenges. You may have to design draw bridges to open the way for passing boats as well. During the simulation phase, vehicles from motor scooters to school buses will drive over your bridge. You can set the game so the stress on your bridge will change colors. When the bridge breaks, you can use this knowledge to determine where the bridge can be made stronger.
In some of the more unusual challenges, you'll be limited on the amount of road you can use – often not enough to complete an entire span over the water. What do you do in these instances? Build a jump, of course! You'll have to develop a ramp that will lift the vehicles into the air, and a landing platform strong enough to take the blow, too. Fortunately, you can sometimes place hot air balloons to serve as bouncy platforms along the path.
The levels get exceptionally more difficult as you progress, especially if you try to obtain the goal of keeping your bridges under budget. Experimentation is expected, and it can be a wonderful experience to figure out a new design that worked better than the old one (especially if the old one didn't work at all), but unfortunately I found myself giving up in frustration more often than trying something new. The physics of the game are pretty good, but I'm thinking the wood they used must be balsa, considering how easily it seems to shatter. Fortunately, it doesn't take long to unlock all the puzzles, which span four different environments, so if you get stuck on one, it's a simple matter to move on to a different challenge.
The graphics are cute and a bit blocky, which plays into the title of the game – you make bridges in a virtual, polygon world. The background music is pleasant guitar, and can provide a soothing contrast to the aggravation of watching your bridge dissolve into splinters underneath a lightweight car. The bridges make little crunching noises when they fall apart, and the car engines make vroom noises, but aside from that, sound effects are pretty sparse.
There is an in-game tutorial, but it just covers the basics. It fails to address some of the more complex tactics that can work. Although there is an option called "guide" on the levels, clicking it does nothing at the time of this writing. It would be nice if there was a way to get some in-game hints or suggestions when a player gets really stuck on one of these puzzles, but that does not seem to be implemented at this time. The game is still in "Early Access," though, so this may be a feature that is still in development.
The controls can be a bit tricky at times. There were several instances when I tried double-clicking in order to tell the computer "stop placing materials," but instead I create a "split joint" simply because my mouse is on one of the circles. It takes a bit of practice to get around that. Speaking of practice, the game does include a sandbox mode, where you can design your own puzzles, or just build however you want. The game also includes integration with Steam Workshop, so you can upload your own videos and puzzles.
Poly Bridge can be amusing at first, but the spike in difficulty can make it a really frustrating experience. From a moral perspective, it's rock solid. I can't really say the same for patience or sanity, though.