Bridge Constructor Portal Review
Half Life 3? Not happening. Portal 3? You wish. Valve’s longstanding reputation for teasing and never releasing sequels meant that the announcement of Bridge Constructor Portal was met with a…mixed response, to say the least. Really, though, I’d say that it’s a net positive, as I’d rather see Valve handing its licenses to other devs for spin-off purposes than hoarding them like a dragon with so much gold. If it results in more games like Bridge Constructor Portal, well, so much the better!
For those unfamiliar with the Bridge Constructor series of games, the goal is to build ramshackle structures that will get vehicles from point A to point B. It starts out simple, with a few gaps to cross, a few jumps to make, and so on. By the end, though, you’re crafting literal rollercoasters and veritable Rube Goldberg machines that rely on the precise timings of several vehicles.
As one might expect, Bridge Constructor Portal takes that formula and dips it in a thick coat of Aperture Science-brand paint (which will probably melt your eyeballs or something, but that’s not important). Portals? Check. Turrets? Check. Aerial faith plates, propulsion and repulsion gels, and GLaDOS’ sardonic sense of humor? Check, check, and triple check. What makes Bridge Constructor Portal feel unique and fresh is its setting, and the fact that it takes full advantage of it really adds to the entertainment value of the title. Carts transport Bendies (the little avatars from Aperture Science promotional videos), who cheerfully wave as they set off, then flail madly when they inevitably fall into acid or get blown up. Short cutscenes every ten levels catalog your Bendy’s rise to the “top” of Aperture’s testing team, with an array of humorous mishaps occurring all the way. Perhaps best of all, Ellen McLain reprises her role as GLaDOS in fine form, not only helping you through the tutorial but also showing up periodically to, well, be GLaDOS.
You only have two materials to build with: Aperture Science Convertible Scaffold Planks and Aperture Science Multipurpose Super Cables; that is to say, hydraulic rods that can extend up to a fixed length, and cabling that can be as long as you need. The rods can also be converted into roadways, which allows the carts to contact them (regular support structures will ignore all collisions). What the system lacks in options, it makes up for in versatility. No matter what your situation, these three object types and a solid understanding of your environment will allow you to succeed. While the game does keep track of the hilariously ludicrous costs of your constructions, that doesn’t play into your ranking on a level. Instead, beating a level requires transporting between one and four carts to the exit, while “mastering” it involves supporting a convoy of several vehicles. Sometimes, your existing structures will work just fine for this. Other times, you’ll have to completely rethink a level to make it work. It’s a fantastic system because it still allows for a lot of player creativity instead of railroading players into a specific structure to meet a designated budget.
“What makes Bridge Constructor Portal feel unique and fresh is its setting”
To its credit, Bridge Constructor Portal’s physics are consistent. If something happens on one test, it should happen on every subsequent test if nothing is changed in between. Unfortunately, that also means they can be consistently frustrating. Certain things like bridge oscillations causing undesirable variance can be brought down to player ability; more support structures will generally help eliminate this. However, there are times when the physics can be incredibly finicky, and in many cases, even a couple millimeters can cause an entire system to fail. Bridge Constructor Portal is at its best when it lets you unleash your creativity on several dozen Portal-centric puzzles. It’s at its worst when it forces you to repeatedly adjust pieces bit by bit in the hopes that something will work properly. The completion of several levels felt more about luck than logic. In other cases, I was forced to go out of my way to make additional structures for the sole purpose of nudging components into place; Companion Cubes had a nasty tendency to overshoot buttons while sliding.
What’s worse are the clipping issues. If carts don’t have perfect landings on roadways, it’s possible for their wheels to clip into the track. The result is that they look like they’re progressing just fine…until it’s time to exit the track. Suddenly, they’ll stick, and upon zooming in, you’ll see that the whole reason is because their wheels are inside the track, rather than on top of it.
As a complete neophyte to the Bridge Constructor series, Bridge Constructor Portal got me surprisingly invested. I was obsessively aiming for 100% completion on each level and ended up playing through the last 20 or so levels in a five-plus hour-long stretch. There was a lot of frustrated hand-waving and incredulous shouting involved, but there were also moments of nail-biting tension, followed by complete jubilation. It’s not going to set the world on fire, but Bridge Constructor Portal is still a clever little puzzler that ought to keep you busy for a while. Bridge Constructor Portal, the sentry turrets put it best: “I don’t hate you.”
*** PC code provided by the publisher ***
- Spot-on writing
- Portal theme is extremely engaging
- Logical, yet challenging puzzles
- Finicky physics
- Clipping issues