The Bridge constructor franchise first hit Xbox back in 2015 with a mixed reaction to the genre that had already taken Smart phones by storm, constructing bridges to get vehicles across a large gap was far more fun than it initially sounds, and while the 2016 sequel, Bridge Constructor Stunts merged driving mechanics which took a little of the emphasis off the puzzles and more onto Physics based stunts, so with the new release getting everyone’s favorite android GLaDOS on board how will Bridge Constructor Portal hold up.
I was a big fan of the original Bridge Constructor so I was pleased to see BC: Portal taking a much more traditional approach…
Starting the game you control a line of employee’s looking to be reassigned as Chief Custodian for the Aperture Science Vehicular Handling Initiative, after a few questions you’ll either meet the incinerator or be get the job, then it’s off to work, once at your desk, GLaDOS gives you a brief run down and walks you through the basics of laying the scaffolding, it’s as simple as moving the cursor to the desired position and then hitting A before choosing the end position and pressing A again to confirm, you can go back to select the scaffold pole to turn it into a road piece and later you’ll have suspension ropes placed in the same way.
It’s quick, simple and effective which means the former touch control scheme make the transition perfectly to the big screen, the first handful of levels will only task you with basic bridges, but in true portal style, things soon get a little less ordinary, creating jumps, and utilising portals to pass the map isn’t as difficult as it sounds, and much of the first half of the game requires far less complexity than you might imagine.
Progressing through the game, you’ll find 7 chapters, each containing 10 levels, you can pass the level by simply getting one test vehicle to the goal, obviously it’s not the end of the world if a passenger falls off and gets ran over, those guys are expendable, but as long as the vehicle makes it’s way safely into the tunnel, you’re safe to move on to the next level.
Over the course of the game you’ll be jumping through plenty of portals, but turrets, companion cube’s, beams that prevent vehicles, scaffolding (or both) are introduced gradually giving a constant sense of progression along with an ever increasing challenge as solutions become more and more complex.
After finishing each level purists will want to hit right on the D-pad to give their construction a proper test, this ‘convoy’ will unleash a number of successive vehicles which will soon find any structural weaknesses but the glory of getting a convoy across (and the attached achievements) means those few tweaks are worth your time.
Venture onto the second half of the game though, especially the last few chapters, and it’s a very different story, solutions are incredibly complex and requires plenty of trial and error while still trying to maintain the integrity of your creation, thankfully the game helps by highlighting critical points red as they feel the pressure (often shortly before breaking and sending your bridge tumbling to the ground).
One thing that’s really stood out for me during my time with Bridge Constructor Portal, wasn’t just the humour of Portal & GLaDOS, but also the balancing, my 10 year old twins equally enjoyed the challenge and while it sometimes had us all scratching our heads, they where quite capable of working through the challenges. Far too many puzzle games sit with a specific target audience making them too easy for adults or too difficult for younger players, and while I’m sure plenty will struggle with the final chapters, it’s great to know Bridge Constructor Portal can be enjoyed by all ages.
Graphically, it’s all very similar, the Aperture science labs aren’t known for being diverse locations and nothing changes here, there’s the odd pool of acid, and various coloured portals but the test chambers all look very similar with only layout and anchor points changing from one to the next, a little more variation would have been nice (that’s why I enjoyed Portal 2 so much) but the familiar surroundings do help somewhat in keeping your surroundings constant so you can concentrate on the puzzle at hand.
There’s a sharp clarity as you delve into building your way through the enrichment centre and using the triggers you can zoom right in, to fine-tune your constructions or watch as your vehicles passengers get knocked off after landing awkwardly.
Audio isn’t quite as impressive, It’s great to hear the voice of GLaDOS is present, but at times her narration seems so few and far between that it’s not as free flowing as we’re used to hearing and sometimes comes across as a little too imposing, Background music fits well but occasionally goes all a little too quiet especially while paused, and sound effects do their job highlighting orbs bouncing around and sound-bites such as Turrets getting knocked over and crying out to express their failure, but while the Portal license is put to fantastic use, I just felt myself wanting a little more from the audio departments.