The multiple Bridge Constructor games have been an ongoing phenomenon in the gaming world since it’s initial release in 2011, and throughout it’s many subsequent releases. Each new rendition (playground, medieval, stunts) give gamers a new way to explore and prevail against challenges designed to test their limits and understanding of basic architecture. Many hilarious bridges and (frankly, things that should never be spoken about) were constructed, and whether or not they worked was part of the fun. The latest game, Bridge Constructor: Portal is a collaborative effort from the designers of the previous game and Valve Software to develop a quirky and humorous take on the game’s core principles, while adding in that familiar element of portal puzzling. It succeeds beautifully. Let’s look at why!
Firstly, let’s break down this game before we discuss where it’s best suited to play. BC:Portal is available on iOS and Android for $4.99, and Steam Windows/Mac for $9.99. I have played both the mobile (iOS) and steam editions, and will give my opinion on both (current) platforms. Console editions, including the Nintendo Switch, are coming in 2018. Which, inevitably means I’ll buy it there too probably.
BC: Portal is able to capture the ease of play that lends itself to puzzle games of this nature: easy controls, simple mechanics, complicated solutions. Matched with the lighthearted universe of Aperture Science, a great puzzle game is born.
What’s it about?
Each level follows the same principle: Get your forklift (and drivers, preferably) to the exit across the level. Using only two materials – a piston arm connector (that can double as a platform to roll across) and cabling to reduce strain, create a functional bridge for your forklifts to cross. The first few levels make sure you’re comfortable with this idea before introducing the absolutely brilliant complication of portals into the mix. Suddenly that bridge needs to include a jump platform, a bounce pad for where the forklift will fall after shooting through the portal across the room – and it needs to do it all without collapsing under it’s own weight. This is harder than it seems.
Each of your employees are expendable, and GLADOS makes sure you’re aware of this pretty frequently. As the familiar features in the Portal universe make their way into the puzzles, the game gets harder. Dodging turrets, death lasers and weighted companion cubes falling from great heights make for an experience that in no way feels tacked on or out of place. It’s excellent. The familiar Portal world comes back to life with jokes, references and enjoyable tunes while GLADOS makes fun of you in the way that only she can.
Playing first on Steam, the mouse controls feel easy and fluid. Manipulating the angle and length of your struts is easy to do – a radial guide indicating how far you can bring an arm out and in which direction helps to guide your progress. Struts and cables easily snap together when they are in proximity, making construction a breeze. The game does not require use of keyboard at any point. Once a bridge (or horrifying structural assemblage sure to be condemned by OSHA) has been installed, a press of the “TEST” button will enable physics, and you’ll start to see the strain and weak points of the creation. Shore those up and hit “DRIVE” to see mini stick figure employees jump in a waiting forklift and floor it into the hell you’ve got waiting for them. Pro-tip: let them explode a few times on some lasers. It’s AWESOME.
Once you’ve got the hang of the controls and principles, it’s fairly self-explanatory to continue figuring out the solutions to the puzzles. Note, I didn’t say “easy”. The puzzles get ever more challenging, and build off the principles of the bridges that came before. For when things get too challenging, there’s a builders guide built into the game that will discuss basic architectural rules (like using triangles instead of squares, and how more struts do not necessarily equal stronger bridges).
Each level has a primary requirement for completion, and an optional challenge for those who want to be the very best test subject. The first challenge is usually get the one or two forklifts across the map (depending on the level), whereas the second challenge is only unlocked once you’ve completed the first. A new button titled “CONVOY” is enabled at the bottom of the screen. Pressing this will unleash a wave of forklifts, pretty much one right after the next across your map at full tilt. All of a sudden twelve forklifts are doing flips through the air, rolling and crashing into one another on screen. If you’ve built a stable structure, it’ll be fine. If not, well, you’ll find out soon enough.
The game is well crafted and at no point did I feel overwhelmed with challenges or difficulty of the puzzles. As a puzzle game, it’s exceptional and worth playing. Let’s talk about WHERE you should play it.
A game of this nature lends itself strongly to mouse control. It’s easy to see the whole stage on your monitor, and using the radial control on each strut to plan out your placements makes planning and execution a breeze. You’ll find yourself sucked in for more than a few hours if you aren’t careful, and the way each level is self contained means you don’t have to worry about progression or saving when you want to pop out for a break. There’s a lot to love about playing this on the computer, where the whole experience is heightened by the larger display. Can’t go wrong.
The thing about puzzle games, (especially the kind of puzzle games like bridge constructor) is that they are great travel companions. Puzzles that you can play on your way to work, on the train, surrounded by hundreds of sweaty humans in a tube with no internet. So, when a game comes along that’s fun and challenging enough to hold attention, coupled with the fact that it DOES NOT REQUIRE INTERNET TO PLAY, and WILL LET YOU LISTEN TO YOUR OWN MUSIC, this is pretty high up on the list for me.
The radial controls feel very fluid on iOS, more so than I was expecting. Dropping a cable or a strut will snap to the nearest anchor point, and then will push the angle up about 20 degrees up from where your finger is pointing (so you can see what you’re doing). The zoom feature allows you to maneuver and create bridges with ease, and because the main game is fully point-and-click, you don’t need anything more than your phone and one finger to create epic creations. What I’m getting at is this is a really solid port. This game is a great one to bring on the train, and for half the price of the PC release, is absolutely worth picking up.
Bridge Constructor: Portal is an excellent idea brought to life in a charming way. I had difficulty putting down the game (on both PC/iOS) in order to write this review.
9.5/10 puzzle game. Pretty damn close to perfect – There’s no wrong way to play this game. Addictive and charming, with all the ease of play you’d expect from a puzzle game, without sacrificing the challenge for those looking to go deep. The only flaw: needs more Wheatly. Fun whether or not you enjoyed the original Bridge Constructor games.