March 03, 2018

Bridge Constructor Portal - Review

The Bride Constructor series has been a solid performer for years, but has never really hit main stream, but now will the team up with the Portal series give it that extra boost.

It is important to know that this is not a Portal game, with some constructing elements, this is a bridge making game, with some Portal elements. While portals and turrets are around, they are always secondary to the bridge making abilities, which is a good thing as the creation of your bridge masterpieces can be very rewarding. As you start, you are required to take a survey, as the game is set in Aperture Laboratories, surveys are expected, though the least of your concerns, answer wrong though and your little human shaped person will plummet down some dark hole, but once you have answered the questions correctly, you are rewarded with your hard hat and the testing, I mean construction begins.

The game has 60 levels, broken up into 6 stages, with 10 levels per stage, as you being in the first section, you will need to create some incredibly simple designs, but within a few levels, things will start to change up. When you get your first level with portals, they work the same as they do in the main line Portal series, enter one, come out the other, but later, the game throughs 4 or 8 portals onto a single level and this is where things change. The game will give you a chance to try and work out how to proceed, well at least GLaDOS will mock you for a bit, before the game changes the colours to match, enter a yellow portal and you will only exit the corresponding yellow portal, easy. Once you have that down pat though, more and more elements from the Portal series will start to appear, propulsion gel, bounce gel, turrets and more, with each combination of items invoking memories and dread.

The levels though are where the fun and pain come into effect, while at first glance, each level can seem like there is a simple solution and there are times that simple is best, but the fun comes from trying to achieve a working construct. Each level has two challenges, first is that you need to get one single vehicle across to the exit, that does not seem to bad, but to fully complete the level, you need to get a convoy across and this is where things can change up. The single vehicle might make it across your shady looking bridge, but two, three or more in a row might prove too much, with girders and suspension cables falling apart, meaning if you want to get it right, you need to redesign your build. The idea of completing the level by getting a single vehicle across might work for most, but not for me, I spent hours just getting the final vehicle from the convoy across some small gaps, it was quite fun.

Of course, if the idea of building bridges does not appeal to you, then you will be let down here, as that is what the entire game is about, while GLaDOS does make things fun, the core concept is still construction and that’s it. Where the building falls down though, is with the games build mechanics, for the most part they are very solid, you can use the left stick to move your piece around, snapping into place with a press of the A button, but there were many instances where I would do that, only to have the connection fail, as it snapped to a point next to where I wanted. Of course the Switch version has full touch controls, same as the mobile release from last year, the problem here though is that using a finger or two, you cover a lot of the screen, which makes lining up the pieces hard to get right.

The one aspect of the game that I found funny was in the design, the game looks odd, the cutscenes, if you can call them that, are all portrayed from the isometric viewpoint that the Portal tutorial videos used, but the rest of the game is presented in a 2d fashion. If that were not strange enough, the people are 2d cut-outs, but everything else is in 3d, resulting in a little bit of a mess, thankfully though, the 3d parts are well done. When you are building, the entire game is presented in a 2d view, letting you build fast, but when you test or trigger the vehicles to move, the rear wall moves back and the game transitions to the 3d look, its truly quite clever. There are times when GLaDOS will descend onto the screen, to give you some information, but she is rendered in full 3d and just completes the crazy look the game has going for it.

Sound wise, the game is a blend of known sounds, again from the Portal games and original, but while the visuals don’t quite match up, the sound has no such issues. Having GLaDOS voiced again by Ellen Mclaine, was perfect, because by the end of the first word, you are instantly pulled into that world again. Having turrets target your vehicles as you attempt to guide them to the exit is fun as always, but it’s the subtle sounds of the portals, vaporisation grids and such that just make it feel alive. The music, while very lowkey did provide me with a sense of peace, something that few building games manage, far too often they spend their time trying to provide catchy tunes, for the sake of being catchy, here though the game provides music that outside of the game, you could put on and just relax too.

Bridge Constructor Portal is one of those rare blends where two very different games come together and create something greater than the sum of its parts. While the construction mechanics have some strange behaviour when using a controller and the touch screen controls are difficult to use, the game still manages to keep the draw going. If you are a fan of either series, then you need to get yourself the game, GLaDOS suggests it.

Review copy provided by Headup Games

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