Poly Bridge 2 review: Trussing the process

Developer Dry Cactus returns again to ask players to trust in the triangle with Poly Bridge 2. Our review.

4

Bridge-building games are not a particularly new concept, even back when Poly Bridge first launched in the summer of 2016. That said, the game won favor with a sizable audience that was attracted to its visual presentation and the ease of jumping in and out of play. Poly Bridge 2 now arrives during the weirdest summer in recent memory, aiming to take our minds off global uncertainty. While it retains the playful appeal of its predecessor, it does not feel like a proper evolution of the original idea and is often hampered by frustrating controls, an unhelpful UI, and little appeal for enthusiasts of actual bridges.

Spanning the gap

The setup for Poly Bridge 2 could not be simpler. You must erect a structure capable of withstanding the Newtonian stresses of passing vehicles while avoiding obstacles such as boats, planes, and criminally negligent budgets. The game is divided into separate levels that present gaps that must be crossed using a predetermined allotment of cash and construction materials. As the levels progress, the scenarios grow in absurdity, up to and including launching people in cars over giant chasms.

Poly Bridge 2 uses a physics engine to determine the structural integrity of player designs, including their ability to stand under their own weight, assist cars in reaching arbitrary points on a 2D plane, and transforming to allow through traffic from the skies or water. The stress on building components such as wood, steel beams, or cabling is relayed to the player with changing colors, where green denotes a lack of stress and red indicates imminent failure. 

A degree in civil engineering

The opening sequences of the game guide newcomers through lying down pavement and the most basic concepts behind bridge design. Using triangles to provide strength is encouraged early and often, though it is never explained why this is the case through text or visuals. The first few levels are easy enough to pass without much thought, but the lack of any meaningful tutorial for some building components or design concepts leads to serious progression issues rather quickly. 

An early hydraulic-powered drawbridge scenario simply shows the player where to place hydraulic pistons and specific interaction points where they must be stretched to pass the level, yet never takes the time to describe what it is that the player is doing to the components or why they are placed in that particular slot. 

A Rolodex of flashcard tips is available at all times that offer next to no helpful information, including a card with four picture examples of hydraulic bridge designs. Simply copying the example designs part-for-part and position-for-position fails to produce a functional structure and there is no feedback as to why something does or does not work. Cables are never explained at all, making the prospect of designing solid suspension bridges an incredibly daunting task. Sometimes you make guesses and can pass a level, but you don’t learn why the choices you made worked, setting you up for a bigger failure down the road. You can simply skip levels where you hit a roadblock, but doing this does not feel satisfying.

Interacting with the UI is still as cumbersome as it was in the first game. My chief complaint is with object interactions and camera panning being tied to the same mouse button. No matter how much I play, I am still continually dragging the viewport around when I want to be manipulating bridge components, compounding the previously mentioned frustrations.

Water under the bridge

The presentation style of Poly Bridge 2 remains consistent with the first game. This is not a AAA title and was never meant to be. Simple low-poly designs and subdued colors are the name of the game here and do their job admirably. Watching those poor souls drive over a cliff to their deaths is almost always worth a slight chuckle and the game is light enough to run on a calculator watch, making it a strong candidate for a quick pickup game for low-power laptops and the like. 

The sound design is functional and unobtrusive, though I did grow to despise the background music. Repeatedly failing levels for hours and hearing the same repeating mid-tempo acoustic diddles nearly drove me to insanity. The tunes would not be out of place in an early-childhood edutainment program and we’ve all heard similar stuff in other lighthearted indie fare, but it becomes a poor companion for the inevitable puzzle frustration that new players will encounter.

There are still loads of things that Poly Bridge 2 does very well and will likely make it a solid pickup for the right audience. Each level has leaderboards that reward coming in under budget, which will greatly help replayability for competitive types. When you finish a puzzle, you also get to see snapshots from others in the community who had successful designs, which can inspire you to re-tackle a touch span. Steam Workshop support will be a boon for the longevity of Poly Bridge 2, ensuring a steady flow of new content. The increasingly absurd scenarios go both ways, increasing the fun for those in search of wacky stuff and simultaneously turning off those who may be looking for a more sim-like experience.

Wrapping up construction

How much a prospective buyer will enjoy Poly Bridge 2 will likely come down to the type of sim they are looking for and a willingness to search for instruction outside the game. The first Poly Bridge had a strong community of fans who wrote excellent guides that explained concepts that the game failed to teach. This will likely be the case for the sequel as well. Poly Bridge 2 is largely the same game as before, just with more things to do. Some of the rage-inducing physics bugs from the first game appear to be corrected for the second go-around, which is appreciated. When you plop down $14.99 for this, you will be getting the foundation of a solid experience marred by a lack of meaningful explanations, frustrating input issues, and psychosis-inducing soft rock. This will be a better game once the community goes to work, but I’m not willing to drive my truck over this bridge just yet. 5/10 snapping steel beams


This review is based on the PC Steam release. The game key was provided by the publisher for review consideration. Poly Bridge 2 is now available on Steam for $14.99.

Contributing Tech Editor

Chris Jarrard likes playing games, crankin' tunes, and looking for fights on obscure online message boards. He understands that breakfast food is the only true food. Don't @ him.

Review for
Poly Bridge 2
5
Pros
  • Eliminates physics bugs from the first game
  • Lots of levels
  • Steam Workshop support points to a brighter future
  • Will run on just about any hardware
Cons
  • UI and input issues lead to frustration
  • Does a poor job explaining design concepts and component use
  • Largely unchanged from the first game
  • Repetitive music adds to the annoyance factor
From The Chatty
  • reply
    May 28, 2020 4:45 PM

    Chris Jarrard posted a new article, Poly Bridge 2 review: Trussing the process

    • reply
      May 28, 2020 4:48 PM

      Poly Bridge 1 was a really enjoyable game. Never got that much attention.

      • reply
        May 28, 2020 5:02 PM

        Just read the review, 5/10 seems low unless it breaks things that worked in Poly Bridge 1? I'm sure there could be stuff that is done better, but compared to something like Besiege I think Poly Bridge does a bit of a better job introducing you to new concepts.

        I haven't played Poly Bridge 2 yet, but the first one is a solid 7/10 for me, 8/10 if you consider there's really no other "bridge builder" games.

        • reply
          May 28, 2020 5:10 PM

          Ultimately, it didn't feel like the additions warranted a whole new game (springs, fixing broken physics) and I had similar issues with the first. I have no doubts that this new edition will also find an audience, it just fell super-flat for me (and I'm still taking the rage it caused within me personally).

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