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Bridge Odyssey

For: iPhone
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Troubled waters

Product: Bridge Odyssey | Publisher: Gameloft | Format: iPhone | Genre: Puzzle, Simulation | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0
Bridge Odyssey iPhone, thumbnail 1
Even in these days of computer analysis and exotic steel reinforcement, bridge building remains the most dangerous civil engineering task. Small errors in construction can bring the whole edifice crashing to the ground.

It's this inherent instability that provides bridge building games with their raison d'ĂȘtre.

Create a gap that needs to be spanned for some arcane reason, limit the player's resources to do so, and then let them get on with the task of refining their approach via some sort of scoring mechanism.

So it's no surprise there have been a steady stream of such games from the original Bridge Builder to World of Goo, while on iPhone RealNetworks's Tiki Towers is the best known.

Quite why Gameloft has decided to add its own version isn't clear. Bridge Odyssey has all the presentational polish you'd expect from the publisher, but comes up short in a number of areas.

Extend the cantilever

Taking the standard 2D approach, the game offers 48 bridge-building scenarios, which are split across six island environments. In each situation, your goal is to get a number of animals - shown in funky silhouette form - from one side of the level to the other, where an Easter Island-style head statue opens up and allows access to the next level.

The way you do this is building a structure by placing individual log elements. You have to start each bridge at one of the fixed anchor points provided, tapping on it and then dragging out with your finger where you want to build.

Each log has a fixed maximum length and ends in a circular node that should be attached to another node to provide the rigidity your finished bridge requires. Sometimes there are also helpful items in the level, such as vines you can use.

When you're ready to go, hit the arrow button in the top right corner of the screen to set the physics simulation live, and the animals will automatically attempt to cross the bridge, walking on the lowest log layer they can.

Animals crossing

There are nine creatures in total, which you unlock the further you get into the game. You don't have any control over them - either in terms of which are included in any level or their order crossing the bridge - but their characteristic movements and mass create subtle issues.

The bison or elephant's weight will break some bridge elements that the squirrel and fox easily trundle across, for example. Luckily, the lightest animals always travel first so as long as the elephant only destroys elements as it walks off them, you're usually okay.

In terms of a scoring system, the fewer logs you use the better since each level has a limited amount. Additionally, there are golden eggs scattered around. If you manage to build a bridge that enables the animals pick up these eggs, then you'll get maximum points. If any animal doesn't make it to the other side, you fail and have to restart.

For each island, you have to complete six bridges out of eight to unlock the next island. You're given a percentage completion score for each island as well an overall score, so you always have an idea how well you're doing.

Shaky foundations

So far, so good, but the fundamental problem with Bridge Odyssey is the lack of control it provides over the building process.

There's a grid that your bridge elements snap to, but most of the time you have to zoom in and very carefully place each log. This is because unlike Tiki Towers, where you automatically drag out triangular sections in a fluid motion, with Bridge Odyssey you have to carefully construct each bridge section piece by piece. It's a really complicated process, but also an imprecise one.

Often you complete a bridge only to find you've placed one of your early logs slightly incorrectly and then you have to delete it and start over.

It's a shame, because Bridge Odyssey is clearly targeted at a more casual audience than Tiki Towers, while its clean presentation and strong artwork make it more appealing than RealNetworks' game. Unfortunately, the lumpy nature of its user interface and the generic nature of the levels means it fails to make the grade.

More Tacoma Narrows than Golden Gate, then.
Bridge Odyssey
Reviewer photo
Jon Jordan | 11 January 2010
Bridge Odyssey is a good-looking game, but it's let down by its complex and frustrating control method
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