Genre: Simulation Strategy Puzzle Physics
Publisher: Headup Games
Release Date: Dec 20, 2017
Alchemy is a term that conjures images of elaborate, scientific experiments and complex medieval spell work in a tower, but it is defined in the modern era as “a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.” Bridge Constructor Portal manages to blend the nostalgic, timeless charm of the infamous Portal franchise with the addictive, challenging mechanics that the Bridge Constructor franchise is known for. The result is pure gaming gold.
Bridge Constructor Portal invites players into the Aperture Science Enrichment Center and challenges them to complete jobs using gadgets, portals, engineering designs, and slightly wonky physics. The goal is simple: Get through the test chamber, using whatever tools available to you, hopefully without numerous custodial casualties – though, if you lose a man or two on the way, that’s perfectly fine. Just don’t destroy the vehicles involved. GLaDOS is back, a ghostly voice harkening from the Portal high days, serving as a tutorial, comedic relief, and moderately disturbing warning system for players. Voiced once again by Ellen McLain, GLaDOS shone immediately and had me laughing out loud in no time.
Bridge Constructor Portal has an impressive array of mechanisms, gadgets, and gizmos. For the sake of full disclosure, let the record show that this title is my first experience with one of the Bridge Constructor games, but my previous experience with the Portal franchise made me overlook my ineptitude for Strategy and Building genre titles. The tutorial is fast-paced but fun, and gets the job done; GLaDOS left me feeling prepared for the real levels after cryptically guiding me through the preliminary ones. The complexity increases rapidly – from aerial faith plates to repulsion gel, laser fields, and sentry turrets – not to mention the added challenge of trying to get a convoy of vehicles through the level rather than just one lone, brave cart of Bendies.
Each stage has different objectives, which can range from merely “get across this pool of acid” to complex usage of levers, glowing-explodey orbs, and numerous other jewels of mayhem. The “test” feature allows you to build, and get a glimpse of the structural integrity before you send a vehicle across the traps. Some players have complained about a lack of fast-forward buttons, but I found the process to be quick and clean enough not to need time manipulation on top of everything else.
The graphics and soundtrack are just as polished and sophisticated as the level design, and unsurprisingly, the voice acting is top shelf. The levels are clean, colorful, and intricate enough without ever delving into overwhelming busyness, unlike many construction-oriented experiences. The interface is crisp and easy to navigate; placing roads, cables, and beams are as simple as click-and-drag motion, or some double-clicks, maybe a button push or two. Beyond that, the level challenges are designed to have numerous routes to completion; playing this with a friend, I was amused and baffled by just how much leniency there is for different solutions to the same increasingly complex problems.
Bridge Constructor Portal delivers on everything it sets out to do: fun, challenging levels full of various hazards, convoluted but straightforward mechanics, with the bonus of GLaDOS snarking in your ears. It’s polished and pretty to look at, and the Portal themes create a new experience for even long-time fans of the Bridge Constructor franchise. Beyond that, Simulation and Puzzle fans have a lot to find in this gem from HeadUp Games, and even slightly questionable physics can’t derail the addictive appeal of this Strategy title. The 2D graphics, and the vague, stick-figure style people inhabiting the convoy of vehicles are charming, hilarious, and utterly complete the package.
The replay value is enhanced by the added challenge of the “convoy” dynamic. Players can beat a level by getting just one vehicle through the labyrinth of acid, death, and destruction, but there’s a bonus objective: get an entire fleet of Bendies to the safety of the exit. This adds extra stress on bridges, and the timing of the convoy can further enhance this danger. The “test” button that allows you to check and see if a bridge piece might fold, not allowing for the added stress of additional units, which can range from a couple to a staggeringly high amount.
- Hilarious voice-over from GLaDOS
- Challenging but rewarding levels
- Gradually increasing difficulty
- Stellar tutorial
- Fun graphics and sounds
- Excellent blend of Portal charm and Bridge Constructor fun
- Minutely repetitious
- Moments of questionable (but hilarious) physics
- Typical genre-style gameplay (this may be a possible pro?)
Lori May gives Bridge Constructor Portal a Drastik Measure 8 out of 10 (80).
Bridge Constructor Portal is available on Steam for $9.99 USD.