A wise man once told me that triangles are one of the strongest shapes to use in construction as all three sides support each other, distributing the pressure more evenly. That knowledge came in handy when tackling ClockStone’s frustrating first venture into the construction business with Bridge Constructor – not that it helped the poor in-game souls who perished as a result of my shoddy workmanship. Now though, business has picked up with the acquisition of the Portal license, merging the structural tests of the original with the crazy test chambers of Portal. This is Bridge Constructor Portal, and you’re going to need more than triangles if you want to keep on GLaDOS’ good side!
Welcome to the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, where you’ll begin your new role in the testing labs, guiding the little stick folk – Bendies – in their vehicles from their starting point to the nearby exit. The only thing you need to do is lay down an appropriate structure to ensure they have a safe journey through each of the test chambers. GLaDOS will go over the basics and charm you throughout the entire game with her trademark dark humour. Having Ellen McLain doing the voiceover once more is a great move as it really hits home that authentic feel of working at the Aperture Science labs.
After being presented with the layout of each level, it encourages the use of scaffold planks, which you can toggle into becoming a solid road, and super strong cable to create the ideal route to the finish. There are a number of preset nodes to attach these components to, with the planks only stretching to a certain length, whilst the cables know no bounds. You can’t just lay down a line of planks from start to finish though. It’ll flop without additional support, but it’s fairly easy to fix that early on in the game with your best friend – the triangle. Guiding a vehicle across bubbling acid via a simple bridge is merely the beginning thankfully, because let’s be honest, Bridge Constructor Portal would be pretty boring if it continued on in the same vein.
Prepare for the influx of portals to reach the awkward exits, propulsion gel laden routes, sentry turrets to avoid and bouncy repulsion gel covered sections. This is where the real fun starts. Not only must you construct a route, but also figure out how the additional variables will alter the run through. Can you send the vehicle headfirst into the back of a turret to avoid taking fire, or are there any cubes nearby to block the bullets? Have you worked out the trajectory of the bounce to ensure it’s going to make it back on to the road created? Will the angle of the path help to amass enough speed to fly over any hazards? I asked myself all these questions, sometimes in just the one level. That mind of yours will constantly be put to the test.
Trial and error comes into play massively as just the slightest tweak to a joint can make a huge difference in the chances of triumph. But aside from the apparent loss of Bendy lives, there’s no punishment and no limit to the amount of money spent on materials to test over and over again. And that’s a real bonus to help keep the frustration to a minimum and the fun factor high. What makes life easier is the in-game handbook of best practices for erecting solid structures, which is infinitely helpful, particularly for those unfamiliar with the physics behind it. I hadn’t even contemplated suspended bridges before checking that out, but now I have the expertise to build a rather stable one.
Upon successfully constructing a suitable path for the initial single vehicle transportation of Bendies, it’ll then require you to send a convoy of them; thus ramping up the strain on the joints and almost certainly unveiling the many flaws of your design. Fortunately you can advance through the levels without fulfilling this objective, unless you want the extra Achievements of course. Some of the most entertaining moments come from the convoys though, especially when there are ramps, bouncy spots and speed boosting gels. It’s absolute carnage as vehicles fly through the air, narrowly missing each other at first, before colliding, seeing everything collapse and you being sent back to the drawing board. Or you run the same simulation again because you’re sadistic, like me.
In total there are 60 levels spread out across six chapters, with each level becoming trickier than the last, to the point where tremendously difficult to construct loops or a load of crossing paths may be necessary to navigate a multitude of portal routes. I’ll admit to regularly getting stuck as the difficultly ramps up, however, the failures haven’t pushed me over the edge as of yet. The further you advance the more influence a minor error has on the outcome; it’s the fine margins in this line of work that’s exciting.
In terms of controls, they can be quite finicky to place the pieces in the exact position you want, at the perfect angle desired. There is an option to zoom though and this helps a lot with the finer movements, it just takes some getting used to. When you are about to use an item, it shows the possible attachments you could do next and it’s a great bonus that ClockStone have included a button for it to auto lay down those extra pieces. Just like in the original game, it’ll let you view a stress test of the structures to enable you to pinpoint the weakest areas.
The only negative long-lasting thought crossing my mind during my whole experience is in regards the materials at your disposal – scaffold and cables. I feel so uninspired by such an inventory that I was willing the game to throw new components my way after a chapter. All the Portal themed items are already in place, you’ve got no control whatsoever over their starting position. That doesn’t deter me from playing though, so likewise it shouldn’t prevent you from hours of puzzle solving enjoyment.
It looks like Portal, it sounds like Portal, and it’s just as mind-bending as Portal. But this is Bridge Constructor Portal and there’s no doubt it’s the best of the Bridge Constructor series, a stroke of genius for whoever came up with the concept of merging the two. Adding the gels, portals and turrets raises the stakes and brings excitement galore, even to failed tests. I may be a bit sick of seeing scaffolding and cables right now, but GLaDOS will get me over it, with her perfectly timed words of wisdom.
Puzzle games need ‘eureka!’ moments and Bridge Constructor Portal has those in abundance, counteracting the progressively difficult levels. So come and join the testing team at the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, where you can destroy stuff, have fun and feel pretty darn smart in the process. Oh, and we have cake!