By Marty Mulrooney
Bridge Constructor Portal merges the classic Portal games (Valve Corporation) with the popular Bridge Constructor (ClockStone) series of games. Developed by ClockStone (under licence from Valve) and published by Headup Games, Bridge Constructor Portal returns players to the Aperture Science Enrichment Center to tackle 60 test chambers of ever-increasing difficulty, under the watchful eye of GLaDOS…
It’s been nearly seven years since Portal 2 – which Alternative Magazine Online described in its 10 OUT OF 10 review as “a difficult game to fault” – was released. Since then, players have been waiting for a new Portal game to arrive, along with the ever-elusive Half Life 3 (neither of which is going to happen… probably). Sure, there was The Lab in 2016 – but that was a free HTC Vive exclusive VR ‘experience’. Bridge Constructor Portal isn’t Portal 3 by any stretch of the imagination, but it certainly scratches an itch for fans of the series.
While this reviewer had never played a Bridge Constructor game before this one, the basic premise is easy to grasp yet difficult to master: create a series of bridges to ensure a vehicle reaches a pre-determined exit point. The Portal licence brings with it a collection of instantly recognisable obstacles (such as lasers and turrets) and tools (such as portals and Propulsion Gel) that enrich the game’s somewhat traditional engineering simulation foundation.
Now, that isn’t to say this is just another Bridge Constructor game with the Portal licence slapped on top to increase sales. There is a level of attention to detail and genuine appreciation for the licence that is very impressive indeed; it actually makes the game feel like a bona fide Portal experience.
Before most of the levels, antagonistic AI robot GLaDOS – with Ellen McLain reprising the role that made her famous with gamers around the world – explains the challenges ahead with her trademark deadpan delivery, wishing you luck while crossing her non-existent fingers. There isn’t any story to speak of – as the vehicles are manned by little stick men rather than real people – but the writing of GLaDOS and the music is spot on, really tying this whole mashup together.
As for the gameplay itself, it’s bloody addictive! The levels start off simple enough before quickly ramping up in difficulty. To pass a level and unlock the next one, players need only get one truck to the level exit. However, the real fun comes from attempting to transport a convoy of trucks; in fact, it’s so fun that, despite being optional, this reviewer never proceeded until each level had been cleared in this manner.
The convoy option is particularly tricky and adds additional challenge because any struts or supporting wires – which can only be added at predetermined points – must now take additional weight and will break if they’re put under too much pressure. The in-game physics engine is fantastic and failure never feels unfair; there is a lot of trial and error involved of course – swapping between construction mode, test mode, and vehicle mode – but that’s all part of the fun. It’s hilarious when things go wrong and it makes perfect sense within the Portal universe that GLaDOS doesn’t care if any of the stick men perish as long as the vehicles arrive safely!
Bridge Constructor Portal is the perfect distraction to fiddle with on your lunch break, or in bed before you fall asleep. Fan of either series are sure to have a lot of fun and the game works particularly well on iPad thanks to a simple interface that nonetheless allows for plenty of experimentation. It’s a small shame that there isn’t really any story to speak of – especially as the Portal games told such good ones previously – and that you can’t place your own portals, but perhaps that would have taken away from the core experience of simply building bridges. This is a solidly constructed puzzle game that will reward patient gamers and has earned the right to be mentioned in the same breath as Portal and Portal 2 despite being a completely different slice of cake – high praise indeed.
8 OUT OF 10