The Bridge Curse: Road to Salvation review

If you’ve seen the 2020 Taiwanese horror flick on which this first-person adventure is based, you’ll know that it centres around a drama production gone awry. Against better judgement, a group of university students re-enact the final moments of a tragic suicide that occurred on the titular scenic bridge. Word has it a heartbroken female took her own life at the stroke of midnight after her boyfriend failed to show. The student’s faithful re-enactment angers the girl’s restless spirit – and the only way to stop the ensuing madness is to perform an exorcism before sunrise.

No time is wasted during the opening – the re-enactment takes place within the first 15 minutes or so, with just a brief tutorial beforehand. Not that a complex tutorial was necessary, with this being a straightforward, combat-free, affair. Ingeniously, character introductions take place after the eventful drama rehearsal. You’ll get to step into the shoes of the six students involved, experiencing first-hand how they’re coping with letting a raging spirit loose, while discovering their personality traits. Each carries a mobile phone, regularly updated with group chat messages. They’re quite a sociable bunch.

Once the implications of their actions settle, the group sets about performing said exorcism – with the game’s 5-6 hour duration involving carrying out research, gathering the required items, and eventually executing their plan. There’s light puzzle solving throughout, including an obligatory fuse box brainteaser, lots of slow-paced exploration with item scavenging, plus a couple of horror scenes – including a frantic dash to find creepy toys before they come alive. All these events take place around the university, with scenes set within the multifloored dormitories, various classrooms, the security office, and a nearby public park.

With the spirit stalking the grounds, the task at hand is made much tougher – especially considering she’s fond of possessing others. This commences chase sequences requiring stealth, each spread a couple of hours apart. The difficulty level often enters the realms of frustration here, although the atmosphere can be appropriately unnerving. Upon being caught, you’re treated to a gruesome freeze-frame close up of the possessed assailant. The idea is to avoid the spirit’s line of sight while trying to remain quiet by crawling. Not an easy task. Portable toilets and lockers act as safe zones, but if the spirit sees you enter either, they’ll instantly drag you out. The main problem I had with the chase scenes is that not much of a head start is given – the shunned spirit is on your heels from the get-go. This results in a lot of trial and error to successfully navigate the maze-like environments. The ability to peer around corners, or some sort of defence mechanic, may have helped alleviate frustration.

As one of the bigger budget games in eastasiasoft’s catalogue – priced $29.99 / €29.99 and due both digitally and at retail – the presentation here is unsurprisingly more lavish than the publisher’s regular indie output. It’s powered by the Unreal Engine, allowing for a combo of realistic lighting and shadow effects – a good paring, seeing each character seemingly has a torch glued to their hand. The environments have a fair bit of detail, including strewn litter, cluttered shelves, and numerous torn posters adorning the campus walls, while the character models are reasonably lifelike. The paved area surrounding the dormitories and classrooms is a little barren, though. And while some areas are walled off with invisible barriers, this appears to be to keep players on track.

The voice acting is par for the course for this kind of thing – a lot better than horror games of the ‘90s, but still a bit hokey. Typos let the written dialogue slide, with a mission objective using the word ‘doorm’ instead of ‘dorm’. Conversation heavy scenes also drag, in addition to being slightly cringey – mostly where the male characters are concerned, especially when it comes to showing their true colours. Later, there’s a scene with an overflowing toilet oozing with excrement, and I’m not sure if this was intended to gross out or shock. Likely the former, considering the unnecessary level of detail. More positive are the occasional humorous touches, such as an allegedly possessed vending machine that only dispenses asparagus juice.

For a movie tie-in, the pacing is surprisingly good, avoiding shoehorning key movie scenes. Things don’t radically alter when playing as different characters – this is a first-person game, remember – but you are often relocated to different areas, exploring the tiny and cluttered dormitory rooms one moment and crawling through filth the next. Puzzles have just the right level of complexity, never being too obtuse, and the current mission objectives are always clear. One mission calls for map reading skills, making you think a little harder to progress.

In many ways, The Bridge Curse: Road to Salvation feels like a better realised version of the recent (and severely flawed) SENSEs: Midnight – using modern touches such as group chat and live streaming more proficiently, while using Asian folklore as a basis for its scares. If you enjoyed the limited thrills offered there, you’ll relish this. It is contrived for the most part – a mere mixture of typical horror game puzzles, exploration, and rudimentary stealth – but the university setting, accomplished visuals, and insight into the Taiwanese way of life help give it personality.  

The Bridge Curse: Road to Salvation is developed by Softstar. Out Aug 30th on consoles. A PC version is also available.