The Bridge Curse: Road to Salvation (Xbox Series) Review

A great ghost story cursed with frustrating trial-and-error gameplay

The Bridge Curse: Road to Salvation is a clunky but complex and compelling Taiwanese narrative-horror game brought down by an overreliance on trial-and-error gameplay. The opening can feel slow and disjointed, but the story pieces fall into place and it evolves into an entertaining tale about defeating literal and personal ghosts. The problem is just as the cast begins to grow on you and the stakes get higher, the frequency of frustrating ghost encounters ramps up too.

Premise

The Bridge Curse: Road to Salvation’s strongest elements are the relatable but troubled cast, the unexpectedly complex plot, and a creepy setting that twists a familiar safe space into a walking nightmare.

It helps that while it might look and feel distinctly “last-gen”, it features detailed character models for both the cast and ghosts; important interior locations pack in a ton of environmental storytelling; the ambient audio is incredibly unsettling; and there’s decent voice acting coupled with expressive animations (I’d recommend the original Chinese voice overs with subtitles). The variable framerate leaves a lot to be desired, but the quality of the presentation benefits the storytelling as this is a game you’ll get the most out of if you immerse yourself in its world, soak up the thick atmosphere, and hunt down every collectible to try to understand what’s really going on.

The Bridge Curse: Road to Salvation follows a group of six Taiwanese undergrads, each with wildly different personalities, backgrounds, and interests – all on course for a really bad night.

What brings them together – and back to a seemingly deserted campus during a winter break – is their plan for a live-streamed initiation ceremony that’ll see them test many urban legends around their campus. They’re hoping to draw attention to their social clubs and plan to focus on a cursed bridge; a bridge said to be haunted by the ghost of a female student assaulted and killed 5 years prior.

The cast is made up of common archetypes but they’re still likeable, or at least relatable, and most have more history than the game initially lets on. There’s the extroverted girl harbouring crippling insecurities and grief; excitable but naive first-years who discover their courage when facing adversity; the mature group leader quick to issue orders but driven by self-interest; and the popular bachelor that has broken several hearts and seems to know more about the situation than they’re letting on.

The Bridge Curse: Road to Salvation takes a while to get going. The opening – which hints at one character’s troubled past and gives you a taste of the frustration to come – transitions into a midnight live-stream that descends into chaos when the vengeful ghost appears and scatters the group. During this disjointed opening, you play from the perspective of several characters over an overlapping time period.

Although they all believe in the possibility of hauntings, few of them encounter ghosts at first, so these opening hours are spent establishing their personalities and relationships with plenty of exploration, dialogue, and puzzles. The tone and content matter is serious – albeit with some goofy moments and literal toilet humour – but lengthy dialogue sequences, reading phone messages, and examining dozens of optional collectibles make for an interesting but seemingly unfocused start.

Push on through – the game is only 4-5 hours long, ghost chases permitting – and it escalates in complexity. The students finally gain more agency, get to explore more of the campus, uncover the truth of the original incident, and discover a plan to exorcise the ghost for good. The stakes are ramped up, relationships are frayed, not everyone survives, and the lightly foreshadowed ending was an unexpected twist. I was honestly hooked by the midpoint and continually on edge, which only made the impact of poor gameplay choices frustrate me more.

The Bridge Curse: Road to Salvation Exorcism Ritual

Gameplay

The Bridge Curse: Road to Salvation doesn’t have particularly novel or even polished gameplay, but it could get away with it given the short length and frequent story beats that hold your interest.

The stiff movement and first-person animations work fine for exploration and puzzle sections, which focus on walk-and-talk exposition, reading documents, and solving puzzles. About half your time is spent exploring the eerie campus – possibly encountering a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-it jump scares – while searching for mandatory items, optional notes, and reading phone messages. There are no objective markers or map, so you need to follow instructions, check signs, and become familiar with the layout. It serves to immerse you in the world and ramps up the tension when the environment is twisted into new, unfamiliar layouts.

Occasionally, you’ll find yourself locked in puzzle rooms, hunting for keys and codes before using them in the right order. With no guidance outside of environmental clues and notes, I initially got stuck on the very first whiteboard puzzle before realising I hadn’t properly examined a seemingly random item for a note taped on the back. It’s classic survival-horror fare and I quickly settled into the groove.

The Bridge Curse: Road to Salvation Puzzles

Of course, this is a horror game with ghosts, so half your time – assuming you don’t immediately despair and turn to YouTube videos from the PC release – is spent trying to avoid ghosts through a mixture of run-and-hide sequences, scripted chases with only one or two correct paths, and timed object hunts.

These sequences are not challenging once you know what to do; the problem is The Bridge Curse: Road to Salvation relies on the trial-and-error approach and death-screen hints to guide you.There is an attempt to provide visual cues during some sequences but they’re easy to miss in the gloom or visual effects obscuring the screen.

Other issues include utterly useless crouch-walking; checkpoints limited to the beginning of encounters; the need to trigger some sort of paranormal event or ghost spawn before backtracking to find the right path, and finicky interaction prompts for hiding or closing doors – all problematic as most chases offer little room for error.

The Bridge Curse: Road to Salvation Hiding from ghosts

You run until you take a wrong turn, get stuck, and die; reload and try a different path or hiding spot until you get stuck again and die; then keep repeating that pattern until you hit whatever area transition or cutscene saves you from a growing sense of frustration rather than fear and panic.

It’s a terrible design that becomes more intrusive just as the story gets better and is capable of completely breaking the narrative flow and immersion. Given there are several achievements for dying to each ghost type, I’d wager a few unavoidable deaths were clearly part of the plan, but the mechanics are implemented far worse than many other run-and-hide horror games and it’s simply not fun.

The Bridge Curse: Road to Salvation Too many deaths

Conclusions

It’s a damn shame the ghost chases are so annoying as The Bridge Curse: Road to Salvation could have been one of those cult indie hits. Seemingly random events start making sense by the end, and the smart foreshadowing makes it perfect for a replay if you enjoy piecing together every clue and interpreting environmental storytelling. I just hope this re-release will push the developers to go back and tweak some of the ghost encounters because, as it stands, you’ve got to tolerate far too much frustration to move the compelling narrative forward.

The Bridge Curse: Road to Salvation was reviewed on Xbox Series S|X using a code provided to gameblur by the publisher. It is also available on PC, PS4/5, and Nintendo Switch.

The Bridge Curse: Road to Salvation (Xbox Series) Review

The Bridge Curse: Road to Salvation (Xbox Series) Review
6 10 0 1
6/10
Total Score

The Good

  • A diverse cast of relatable but troubled students
  • A compelling and unpredictable story about defeating literal and personal demons
  • A creepy university setting with plenty of jump-scares and foreshadowing

The Bad

  • Stiff and sluggish controls
  • The narrative only picks up in the second half
  • The many trial-and-error ghost chases are not fun and ruin the pacing
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