Polybridge is back. Don your yellow hard hat, bang on your high viz jacket. Let’s get on-site and build some more civil engineering marvels that will stand the test of time.
Developer: Dry Cactus
Publisher: Dry Cactus
Release date: 28 May, 2020
The acclaimed bridge-building simulator is back and better than ever!
New levels, new mechanics, and a custom deterministic physics engine. Relax to the soothing new soundtrack as you try, and retry, to keep your bridges standing long enough to get to the other side!
Pinch every penny and cut every corner to edge your way up the separate verified Unbreaking and Unrestricted leaderboards. Create, upload, and play a never-ending variety of levels in Sandbox or Workshop. Challenge yourself, friends, and the world with your own puzzles.
Poly bridge returns for some more construction japes. I didn’t even know that Dry Cactus
Were busy, beavering away on a follow up to the much-heralded original game. So when the announcement trailer hit my youtube feed, I was surprised and excited to find out the release date was in the very near future. So fast forward to May and here it is, in all its glory.
For those not familiar with the premise? A quick refresher. The elevator pitch is quite straightforward. Poly Bridge is essentially a puzzle game where the goal is to construct a bridge between two landmasses. The kicker is that this bridge must be sturdy enough to allow numerous types of vehicle to cross and stay within a tight materials budget. You can go over these financial limits but will not fare as well in the online leaderboards. Much like the game itself, its tight balancing act of civil engineering physics fundamentals and prudent design chops.
The campaign is broken down into four themed regions. Pine mountains, Glowing gorge
Tranquil Oasis and finally, Sanguine Gulch. Each area has a distant art style but beyond that, they all play relatively the same apart from an increased complexity of the puzzles as you make your way through the content.
The puzzles start out relatively tame. You are given some basic building materials such as wooden beams and prefabricated road sections. A mini-tutorial gives you general advice and construction tips. The power of the triangle is not understated in this documentation. Big is better than small. A sound piece of advice for any rookie bridge builder.
The design phase of the puzzle shows a side projection style draughtsman view of the puzzle area. A handy dandy grind allows you to snap materials in an orderly manner. When positioning beams a popup tooltip displays the current angle and how much the materials will cost depending on its length. The angle reading is crucial when fine-tuning road elevations. Some vehicles don’t have a lot of grunt. So a suitable gradient is required for a successful crossing.
Once you are satisfied with your first design you can test it. The game transforms to a 3D mode which you can alter by holding down the right mouse button and moving the viewpoint.
As the vehicle transverse your construction, load-bearing beams visibly show the stress by slowing changing to red. If the load goes beyond 100 percent then your design falls apart convincingly using the custom physics engine. Back to the drawing board and try again.
That, in a nutshell, is the core of the game. It’s trial and error. The developer gives you all the tools to tackle the puzzle anyway you see fit. You can over-engineer a project and break the budget limit if you want. The true test is producing an elegant design that not only does the job but is cost-effective.
A new material addition is a spring. Which at first, I didn’t really grasp their true potential. For the first few puzzles in which they were available, I was using them merely as dampening devices. This was ok until I was given a conundrum involving a stuntman like jump scenario. I had sorted the lift off-ramp but the landing pad I had concocted was having trouble dissipating the force of the landing vehicle. By slowly increasing the initial tension in the springs I could counter the impact energy. Huzzah! A true eureka moment! Eat your heart out Edwardian engineers of the past! I had visions of being the next Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Time to buy a massive top hat.
Later levels throw increasingly complex riddles at you. Multiple vehicles with different weight characteristics. Seafaring transport that must pass under your construction at various heights. There’s plenty to challenge any bright minds out there. The cutesy appearance of the game belies the fact that underneath, rages the heart of an extremely sophisticated civil engineering simulator. I’ve spent many minutes just contemplating single design choices. The position of every beam and strut is key for a working plan.
If you are a competitive engineer then this game is just for you. Leaderboards are baked into the very fabric of the game. Every puzzle has one. You can filter scores by friends and unbroken solutions.
There has not been a quantum leap in the graphical presentation. More a refinement of the very appealing low poly art style. The game is not a system hog and given the first game has now appeared on most platforms, bar toasters, it is fair to say it will run on even the most creaky of potato powered personal computers. The clean visual design of the many new vehicles is true to the original aesthetic. My favourites include the massive container truck and a delightful yellow submarine.
One flourish that did stand out to me was the introduction of working headlights on vehicles and real-time shadows on the environments, caused by their beams. A stubble effect but a welcome one. The unity engine has come a long way from the 2016 build that was used in the previous game. So it’s cool to see these new features implemented in this current title.
Normally soundtracks to puzzle games are dull and predictable affairs. Either they are bland copyright free music with no real charm or poorly composer tunes that are ill fit for the genre. Adrian Talens.returns for this new project and his songs fit perfectly with the visuals. Fans of quality fingerpicking guitar tunes will enjoy his songs. Evoking contemporaries such as José González. His arrangements are superb. Their sweet understated melodies drift into your brain whilst you beaver away at your latest construction.
Sandbox Mode and Mods.
As the name suggests, sandbox mode allows you to create your own puzzles with all the assets that the developer used in the making of the lengthy campaign. You are given a fairly robust set of design tools to conjure up a fiendish or elaborate puzzle. Whatever takes your fancy. Once complete you can then either store your effort locally or submit it online. For all the world to have a bash at solving.
Steam workshop support is built directly into the game. Obviously, at the time of writing this review, no one has had time to produce any funky designs, but if the previous game is any barometer then it will not be long before this changes completely. The community surrounding this title are extremely active and creative. The first game currently has over 23,000 puzzles to download and try out. A staggering amount of free content. Enough for even the most hardcore fan to lap up.
Suggestions and Improvements
One quibble I have is the scant amount of step by step tutorials( this may change in the final retail version) Currently there are only two. The first one shows the basic bridge-building technique. The second shows the hydraulics system and how to use its functions in order to create a simple drawbridge. The original game had seven very useful tutorials and refreshers for designs such as suspension and truss bridges. It also highlights how to use the copy and paste feature that is present in the design phase. This may seem a bit picky, but for the novice player like myself, any supplemental information is gratefully appreciated.
I do acknowledge that there is a tip pop up that does cover some of the above concerns but in-game tutorials which slowly take you through every step are much easy to digest for an amateur.
One of the new features on the level completion pop up screen is a display of three mini-movies which shows other players successful designs. These would be a great guide for folks like me who often get stuck with some of the more complex puzzles. A hint option which displays these in the design phase would be a superb boon for struggling engineers. I know the hardcore would frown at such a suggestion, but I think it would widen the appeal of the game exponentially.
Forgive the pun, but Poly Bridge 2 builds on the solid foundation of the previous game. It is more evolution rather than a revolution of the formula. But if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Is my motto. There’s plenty of content to sink your teeth into for any would-be fledgeling civil engineer. Do you have the chops to be the next Thomas Telford? This game will surely put your design skills to the ultimate test