Bridgy Jones is Brilliant
Video games built around physics puzzles speak to an insatiable urge to try to fix problems using whatever tools are at hand. Sure, you could go and get a step ladder to help you get that box of cereal off of the top shelf. Or you could use the mixing spoon right in front of you to try to swat it down and save yourself a trip. Sometimes you end up covered in puffed rice. But sometimes it works, and you feel very clever about your inventive solution.
The best games in this genre essentially mirror that feeling. They give you some sort of elaborate set-up and a limited set of not-quite-perfect tools to deal with the situation. In a video game, we are largely free from the consequences of our experimentation. That allows us to try whatever wild idea we might come up with, and if things go well we come away from the whole affair emboldened that our very specific plan was a good one. If we fail, we simply start again with a modified answer.
Bridgy Jones is very good at giving you this sense of accomplishment. Some of the gaps you need to cross with Bridgy’s train seem insurmountable at first. You’re given a particular set of construction materials you can use on each stage, and it never seems like enough initially. Indeed, it’s very likely that your first attempt on each stage will see poor old Bridgy and his loyal pup Bonner taking a dive. This is especially true in the later stages, which often require a complex sequence of movements to get everything needed to reach the end.
But Bridgy and Bonner will be okay. You can modify your plan, try again, and keep on making adjustments and tweaks until you’ve found something that works. Sometimes you’ll just barely make it, with the bridges and supports almost giving way, but that somehow feels even better. Key to this is the fact that you don’t need to find the solution but rather a solution. Most stages have a variety of layouts that will work. Chances are very good that the one you find is indeed your own.
On top of this beloved concept, Bridgy Jones has a ton of personality. This is an incredibly charming game. The story set-up is just enough to get you caring about the characters, and the polished visuals are extremely appealing. You can’t help but cheer Bridgy on as he makes his victorious runs through each challenge, his head hanging out the window of his train engine. When you fail, Bridgy encourages you to keep on going. It’s a nice human touch in what can otherwise be a very abstract task.
While many other games of this sort will have the character move on its own once you’ve laid out your solution, Bridgy Jones has you control the train manually. This may seem like a small thing, but it gives you further ownership over your successes and failures. You can’t blame the computer for not using your makeshift bridges correctly, as you are the one guiding the train across them. As your bridges creak and strain under the weight of the train, you’ll find yourself gripping down on the controls just a little bit harder, as though doing so will make you go faster.
This intersection of the analytical and the emotional, the familiar and the new, the charming and the unstable, is where Bridgy Jones makes its home. It’s enjoyable from a purely mechanical standpoint, but it ends up being more than that thanks to an infusion of a great deal of humble personality. As you personally guide Bridgy and his dog through a series of increasingly treacherous and baffling situations, you end up getting pulled into each small victory and setback. We got a little closer this time. Maybe if we just change that piece and move this other one there, we can make it to the next area?
And that’s when Bridgy Jones has got you.