On paper, Bridge Constructor: The Walking Dead seems like the unlikeliest pairing. One a game about solving puzzles with construction, the other a long-running series about the undead. As far as concepts go, I don’t think any of us saw this coming.
Sometimes it’s nice to be proven wrong. There are times when random combinations do work, much to the surprise of everyone. Certainly surprised me, given how much we laughed at the concept during the Gamescom presentation.
And yet, when you think about it logically, it’s not a bad idea. The mix of survival against hordes of walkers and crafting your escape route is actually quite inventive. Building rickety bridges, rigging up elaborate un-death traps and distractions during the apocalypse is quite a blast.
Continuing its streak of “what if’s?” after the Portal collaboration, Bridge Constructor has put that spark to use with The Walking Dead franchise. Can lightning strike twice, or will the novelty wear off soon enough? Grab your rations and hard hat, let’s get constructing.
We Are Gathered Here Today…
If you’re not familiar with the Bridge Constructor series, it’s pretty simple. You have to get from A to B by building bridges using the X & Y. The Walking Dead slant adds the Z aspect, except they’re walkers in this universe.
By the start of the game, the world has already gone to pot. There’s a little comic book-style recap to get you rolling, but it’s largely assumed that you know the gist. The world’s gone to pot and the dead have decided to not stay dead. Thankfully, the human element of the story doesn’t drone on like its TV counterpart does, keeping it nice and succinct to the plot.
This adventure focuses on Miles and Kyra; a gruff handyman and informal leader, respectively. Early on, they’re met by Eugene… he’s from the show, apparently. I wouldn’t know, I gave up on season two with all that farm nonsense. Eugene aides the gang with his verbose vocabulary and engineering prowess, devising elaborate means of avoiding and dispatching walkers.
Along the way you meet more recognisable faces from the show, like Daryl Dixon and Michonne. These “bonus” characters bring certain skills with them akin to their characters, but we’ll get into that later.
Story and formalities done with between missions, the core gameplay is as you’d expect: construction. Specifically, walkways and bridges to get you from point to point safely, lest you either fall or become walker chow.
Constructs start off simple enough, with the game providing you the basic information on rudimentary bridge-craft. You build your basic pathway, reinforce the platforms with planks and build a supporting frame. Then, like me, you press play and hope for the best. And when that goes wrong, you flip back to the builder and tweak it so it doesn’t collapse like it’s made of wet paper.
Over time (and missions) you unlock the use of cables and steel girders to add some variety, as well as challenge, into the mix. One such mission has no anchor point for one end of the bridge, but a large box on a ledge above. After some head scratching, I’d worked out I need to anchor my floating bridge with cables to the box. However, it took another ten minutes to realise I needed to craft a counterweight frame on other side of said box, to maintain its support.
Steel girders come into play at the start of the second chapter. My first thought, when approached with a wide gap, was immediately, “Make a steel bridge!”. Yeah… turns out that’s really daft, costly, and won’t hold up with wooden supports. One quick forward slap later and it was a wooden bridge with steel supports that made more sense. I got there eventually.
We’ve All Got A Part To Play
It’s not just about building bridges, which is surprising in a game called Bridge Constructor: The Walking Dead. Whilst that is the crux of the gameplay, the human element also plays a part in proceeding(s). Some missions task you with maneuvering your team across various level points too.
Separate from the construction phase, the character movement system is one akin to a Big Trak. You program their commands in, from climbing ladders and pushing switches, then watch as they act them out in real time. It adds a newer dimension to the gameplay as you have to plan three steps ahead as to where someone will be when things fall down.
Miles and Kyra are your run-of-the-mill characters, whilst Eugene has a noisy decoy that attracts walkers. This is put to use in one mission well, in which you anchor a sign to a dumpster. Huck the decoy in front of said dumpster, then watch as the walkers barrel into it, blissfully unaware of the large sign they’re bringing down on themselves.
Daryl and Michonne, however, are considered your “hero” characters and as such are able to take walkers down head on. In the same mission as the above trap, you have to navigate the better-liked Dixon brother through a few corridors of walkers before he can escape.
It adds a new realm of variety and lateral thinking as the game progresses, stepping up in difficulty as you’d expect any puzzle game would.
Something’s Got To Give…
Whilst success in Bridge Constructor: The Walking Dead relies on the player, there are a few moments that made me cry out with a loud, “What the f@&k?!” at it. Admittedly, a lot of it falls down to your competency: you can think you’re structurally sound, until someone steps on it.
Which is fine, in an annoying sort of way. What isn’t fine, however, is when the game bends its own logic to suit its mood. For example, one tutorial tells you that characters can hop short distances when needed. Turns out, that translates to “at certain points”. This means that Daryl Dixon can hop off a bridge for a four foot drop, but a 45° starting ramp was enough to instantly kill him. Took three tweaks and moving of supports to cushion the dainty little contextual princess from dying… which made no sense.
I’d also encountered a bug that wouldn’t let me start building a bridge. Which, given the nature of the game, is quintessential. I reset the level, quit out to menu, nothing. Had to dashboard and close the game to get it to sort itself out. It only happened twice, but it’s twice more than you’d expect to ever have to do.
The controls can be a bit fiddly to get used, but that just echoes the old controller/keyboard debate. Having to track with right stick but not zoom took some getting used to, but that’s just down to user trial and error.
Strong Foundation, Stronger Minds
Once you get the hang of it, Bridge Constructor: The Walking Dead is a solid and entertaining puzzler. Fans of the TV/comic book series will enjoy the cameos being put to good use on the screen, as they dip in and out.
Puzzle game fans will enjoy the unconventional methods used to solve each mission as the difficulty gradually rises. Personally, I got stuck on a few not for lack of smarts but overthinking the solution. When you do figure it out, you can wholeheartedly pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Then get stumped on the next one for a bit and repeat.
It does a few faults, like the aforementioned temperament of what constitutes a fatal drop, as well as the odd glitch. Nothing about it was game-breaking, just mildly infuriating. If you’re looking for a game to speedrun, this isn’t it. You have to approach each mission methodically, use trial and error and be prepared to tweak.
When it goes wrong, it’s frustrating. Yet when it all goes off smoothly, and you’ve get your material count down for an extra bonus, you’ll be laughing. Its simple looking aesthetic hides some genius level architectural creativity to it, which is a joy to wrap your head around.
It will mentally tax you at times, but Bridge Constructor: The Walking Dead is a treat to play. A couple of technical issues here and there don’t ruin the experience, and any faults usually fall on your shoddy workmanship.
Bridge Constructor: The Walking Dead is available now on Xbox One (reviewed on), PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC and Mac. It is also compatible with PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X.
Publisher: Headup Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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