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  • John Bush

Game Review #454: Bridge Constructor Portal (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: John B Developer: ClockStone Publisher: Headup Games Category: Simulation, Puzzle Release Date: 2.27.2018 Price: $14.99


Buy Bridge Constructor Portal from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Put 'Em Together. It Just Makes Sense!

I’m only slightly ashamed to say I was late to the Portal party way back when. I didn’t play the original game until I found a PS3 copy of The Orange Box on the clearance rack at Target a month or two before Portal 2 was released—yeah, that’s right. I have only played the inferior version of Portal. I am horrible. Anyway, it was fun. Like, really fun. And funny. Its balance of challenging puzzles and cutting humor has made the series a fan-favorite for more than a decade. I am less familiar with the Bridge Constructor series, a series of puzzle games where one must construct bridges. These two series find themselves combined for today’s game, Bridge Constructor Portal for the Nintendo Switch. It combines the portals of Portal with the bridge construction of Bridge Constructor to move Aperture personnel and materiel from one spot to another as part of GLaDOS’s beloved tests.

Welcome to Aperture

One of my favorite aspects of Portal is the ease with which the game managed to flesh out its setting using atmospheric elements as well as sharply-written dialogue. Bridge Constructor Portal, sadly, is much less narrative-driven. It has its setup, sure, which sees players recruited by Aperture as Chief Custodian of the Vehicular Hurdling Initiative, and includes tutorials and the occasional bit of… uh, well, let’s say “encouragement” from GLaDOS. While the game’s writing nails the GLaDOS character’s personality, it ultimately feels hollow compared to the source material. There really isn’t much of a story to talk about; it really boils down to a few admittedly amusing skits every ten levels. I realize this game isn’t developed by Valve, so it’s not like I expected it to have any deep revelations regarding the Portal canon, but it was still a bit of a disappointment to see a game with the Portal name attached to it have such a thin narrative.

Step 1: Enter. Step 2: ???. Step 3: Exit.

The concept of the gameplay is incredibly simple to grasp; you just have to build a bridge to get your Aperture vehicles from one end of a room to the exit on the other. Actually doing it, well… that’s where the fun comes in. Throwing wrenches in the works are obstacles like acid pits, gun turrets, and laser walls. You’ll also have to contend with various gels on the floor, launchers, increasingly complex portal routes, and different types of switches. Once you do finally get the vehicle across the room, don’t think your work is done; for an additional challenge—and some replay value—next, you can try to send a convoy of vehicles through the level, which requires building complex pathways that account for vehicles crisscrossing paths. The convoy option is where the game’s real challenge resides; for most levels, I could quickly build a rickety bridge that would easily get one vehicle across before collapsing. Building something sturdy enough to stand up to ten vehicles dropping from the ceiling onto it necessitates an entirely more considered approach.

Physics of Failure

Another difficult aspect of constructing bridges is the game’s system of physics, which acknowledges that certain supports on your bridges will be bearing more weight than others; if a support becomes overloaded, it snaps and usually results in the whole bridge collapsing. Stress also accounts for things like the force with which vehicles fall. That means just because your bridge was able to support one vehicle passing over it, there’s no guarantee that it will hold up when you try to send the convoy. The physics system is most challenging, however, when dealing with anything that requires a ricochet or launcher. Adjusting your bridge to get the angle just right can get downright tedious, as trial and error is your only real option. I still found the game enjoyable, but with some of the more difficult levels (especially the later ones) I found I had to put the game down for a while to clear the tedium away.

Degrees of Difficulty

Between the physics system and the myriad obstacles, Bridge Constructor Portal provides players plenty of challenge over its 60 base levels and 30 DLC levels. The only issue I have with this is that this challenge is not evenly increased as the game progresses; it’s not unusual for one level to represent a huge difficulty spike, only to revert to a much simpler (relatively speaking, anyway) puzzle the next level. I know balancing gameplay is no easy task, but I can’t help but feel I would have enjoyed this game even more than I already did with a more natural difficulty curve.

Half-Life 3 Will Look Better

Graphically, Bridge Constructor Portal is clean and presentable. You can zoom in or out to get a closer look at what you’re building, which offers finer control over whatever you’re constructing. They aren’t the dazzlingly crisp visuals we’ve come to expect of a major Valve release, but it looks good enough to get the job done. The music often fades into the background when playing, and doesn’t really leave much of an impression, unfortunately. But all that is forgiven, because they made the brilliant move of bringing the inimitable Ellen McLain back as the voice of GlaDOS. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take as much of that as I can get.

Not a Bridge Too Far

Bridge Constructor Portal is a worthy addition to the legacy of Portal. It features challenging puzzles and witty, genuinely funny dialogue as a reward for overcoming its challenges. Certainly its narrative isn’t deep, and perhaps it could stand to adopt a more natural difficulty curve, but the game type simply doesn’t lend itself to exploration and world-building anyway. As for the difficulty curve, it’s a bit annoying, but puzzle games are supposed to challenge you to think critically, so it’s not anything close to a deal-breaker. If you enjoy games that will challenge you mentally, this is a can’t-miss experience.

Score: 7.5/10

Buy Bridge Constructor Portal from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes.

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