Bridge Constructor Portal is a complex, frustrating but often gratifying experience that *almost* makes the most of its Portal theme. The Finger Guns review;
The bridge construction game genre has been around for decades, stretching back as far as the early 2000’s with the likes of Bridge Builder and Pontifex but in the past few years the genre has really blown up. Bridge Constructor Portal is the latest release in the genre, developed by ClockStone (the team behind the previous Bridge Constructor games and themed expansions) and published by Headup Games, it initially released on iOS, Android and for PC’s in December 2017 before being ported to the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PS4 in Feb/March 2018. Does Bridge Constructor Portal transport this genre to new, dizzy (but hopefully stable and secure) heights? Almost, but not quite.
Much like every other bridge building game, Bridge Constructor Portal challenges you, the player, to build bridges over impassable spaces to enable vehicles (in this case, a series of forklift trucks) to get from A to B – exactly what it says on the tin. To do so, you have anchor points attached to the ground which you can build from and using a combination of steel girders and suspension wires, you build bridges. You get to test that your bridge will actually stand up with any sections under strain glowing red then disintegrating when broken and when you’re happy with your build, you set your test subject on their way. Simple enough. The kicker here is that the game is set in Portal’s Aperture Laboratories and the inherent dangers that comes within it. Instead of the streams and rivers you might have built across in other bridge building sims, here your greeted by pits filled with acid and automated turrets that’ll tear your test vehicle to pieces should they get in range. There’s also destructive balls that levitate around the level and particular floor tiles which speed up your vehicle. And, of course, there’s the trademark portals which instantly teleport your truck from one point to another, carrying what ever momentum it has with it.
For the most part, Bridge Constructor Portal uses its licencing of the Portal world well. The sadistic AI GLaDOS returns here and is responsible for guiding (or misguiding you, as the case may be) through the game’s steep learning curve, providing a few belly laughs along the way. “Should any of the subjects perish during testing, your name will be listed as the cause of death on their dismissal form” is one of the better dry lines she/it delivers. They’re not all gold however. The writing strays into generic computer orientated gags at times which feel at odds with the super smart wit from the original Portal games.
It would also be remiss of me not to mention the use of the portals which is a little hit and miss. For the most part, the portals add just a tad more complexity to the overall challenge. The portals are colour coded so you know which portal your forklift truck will come out of once it enters and in half of the levels, the portals do nothing more than ask you to cross a hazard twice from different angles or directions. Cross a pit of acid to enter the portal in the top right of the screen, come out in the bottom left and cross the same pit again. It’s when Bridge Constructor Portal makes use of the portals akin to the imaginative ways they were used in the original games does it really come into its own – Going through one portal only to come through it again with more momentum in order to cross a large gap, for example. These instances are few and far between though, appearing more in the second half of the game.
Much like any other bridge building game, Bridge Constructor Portal has equal measures of frustration and elation. Each of the games 60 levels initially tests the player to get 1 or a pair of vehicles from the start to the end tunnel and if successful, will allow you to progress to the next level. Those up for a challenge can then test there build against a convoy of vehicles taking the same route which really puts a strain on your bridge. Some of the levels require pin point accuracy, efficient use of resources and sound structural knowledge to pass this additional challenge and this can be maddening at times. Still, when you get it just right and every forklift truck makes it to the finish line, it’s such a gratifying experience. There have been a number of tense moments as bits of my bridge fail followed by impromptu fist pumps during my time with the game. Needless to say, Bridge Constructor Portal isn’t going to be for everyone but if you can power through those moments when you want to tear out your hair, the moments when you feel like an utter genius are worth it.
Bridge Constructor Portal is available now on Xbox One, PS4 (review version), PC, iOS, Switch and Android.
Publisher: Headup Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we received a review code from the publishers. Please see our review policy for more information.