This Was A Triumph
Bridge Constructor Portal ($14.99 Switch, played for this review, and also available on Android, iOS, Mac OS X, Steam, PS4 and Xbox One) is a game that, while an obvious exact fusion of two games, is one that I never imagined would be made. Not being a fan or follower of Bridge Constructor, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this, even though I was a big fan of Portal and its sequel. Since it essentially mixes two types of puzzles that both require you to manipulate your environment, I saw going in the potential it had – potential that the developers clearly thought they could realize. Thus, going in I was curiously optimistic, and I’m happy to say after finishing the experience, the game exceeded my expectations.
The premise is quite simple. You are one of the Bendies (the nondescript black figures seen throughout the media associated with the Portal games), and you’ve been selected for an engineering job of sorts for Aperture Science’s Vehicular Hurdling Initiative. Initially guided by the famous GlaDOS (with the wonderful Ellen McLain reprising her role as the voice actor), you must guide convoys of Test Vehicles (forklifts) driven by Bendies through a series of 60 Test Chambers to the exits, reminiscent of Portal.
However, instead of solving puzzles by placing portals, you must build structures using Aperture Science Extendable Scaffold Planks and Super-Colliding Super Cables from the various anchor points in each test chamber. Portals, while central to most of the test chamber puzzles, are already placed. This might disappoint a some players expecting to be in command of this aspect, but in fairness, this is Bridge Constructor Portal, not Portal Bridge Constructor, so bridge construction is the main focus. For this game, it works since many of the puzzles would likely be either too easy or way too complicated if you had control over both elements.
I’m Making a Note Here, Huge Success
I’ve already said it once, but it bears repeating that I’m really satisfied with this game. The test chambers start out very easy but gradually get tougher with the last few being really, really hard (I spent hours on a few of them!), so the progression of difficulty is rock solid. You are also free to proceed after getting one Test Vehicle (or set of them) to the exit, so if you’re stumped trying to get a full convoy through, you can proceed to the next and come back to it later. Also touched on before, the voice acting is extremely good (not QUITE as good as the original Portal games, but still a delight to hear). The only flaw is I wish there was more of it – as you make your way through the game, GlaDOS talks to you less and less.
The puzzles were all lots of fun, and they bring back many iconic elements from the Portal series. Aerial Faith Plates, Aperture Science High Energy Pellets, Emancipation Grills, Turrets, Repulsion and Propulsion Gel, and Weighted Companion Cubes all make an appearance and all work, look, and sound as you’d expect, with the turrets having those cute voice overs from the original Portal. I also really liked how the abstract nature of bridge construction allows for multiple solutions to many of the puzzles. You may very well come up with a successful build that differs significantly from the likely intended solution, and I think that’s great. There isn’t a lot of music, but the music that is there fits the game and is done well.
One minor thing, which didn’t really detract from my experience but is worth mentioning, is that there isn’t really much of a story, other than your gradual “promotion” after each set of ten test chambers. There’s not really much of an ending, either. Because of this, players expecting the subtle but deep story and lore of the Portal games may be a little disappointed by this, but I think players should remember, this is a Bridge Constructor game with a Portal theme, not a Portal game with a Bridge Constructor theme. It is a side game, albeit a very excellent one that I think any fan of either franchise should play.
It’s Hard to Overstate My Satisfaction
Overall, I found Bridge Constructor Portal a delight to play. Nearly every negative I can come up with I see as nitpicking and really minor. The biggest minus, the only one I docked a point for, is that there isn’t really any post game, or anything to challenge yourself with once you’re done.
The game shows you how much you’re spending on your bridge components, but since there is no budget constraint or restrictive limit on construction elements, sometimes you can brute force a puzzle by just building more and more stuff (of course, sometimes you’re just making more work for yourself this way). This still requires understanding of the game mechanics to succeed, so its not that big of a deal. Because money spent is displayed, this could have been an opportunity for a challenge mode with budget constraints. The frame rate can dip at times when running the test vehicles, mostly on the later levels with more vehicles and more construction to build, but it is completely unimportant to the gameplay so its a very minor consideration.
Having said that, however, the game’s 60 levels will likely take you many hours to complete, and is a thoroughly fun experience well worth the $14.99 price tag. As a certain song and this section title goes, it’s hard to overstate my satisfaction. This game is sure to please almost everyone in its target audience and I highly recommend it.
Final Score: 9/10
Review Copy provided by Headup Games for Switch. Screenshots taken by reviewer.